Japanese depression contrasts the Western understanding of workplace mental health 3

frustrated young asian businessman

Australian workplace mental health advocates often seem to shy away from discussions of suicide, perhaps because suicides are not a regular occurrence at work or because work-related suicide remains stigmatised.  To better understand this overlap between suicide and mental health, and the working environment, it may be useful to look at the Japanese experience where work-related suicides, specifically karoshi, seems to have occurred before the appearance or recognition of mental ill-health and depression.

Recently the BBC released a series of broadcasts and podcasts looking at mental health issues.  The first episode discussed “Depression in Japan”.  The whole series Borders of Sanity will be of interest to mental health students and professionals but the Japanese episode reinforces that the recognition and treatment of depression is not the same around the world.  The appearance of depression in Japan is a very recent occurrence and shows the links between mental health and culture, particularly as it relates to the role of work, our place in work and our relationships with our bosses.

Japan has a unique approach to work and the relationships within work.  Some of the practices have been exported to other countries as we have seen in companies like Toyota but the perception of workload, diligence, commitment and loyalty has some echoes in Western workplaces.

Karoshi has been reported on in the West many times before, often as a peculiar quirk of the Orient but the recent BBC podcast is less about suicide and more about depression and mental health.  The West has a long tradition of psychoanalysis where stress, anxiety and depression have been defined, refined and integrated into our cultures.  This is still in its early stages in Japan and the full podcast is a fascinating counterpoint to the Western perception of workplace mental health.

Kevin Jones

“Cabbage Salad and Safety” podcast launched 8

KJ SFH HeadshotIt has been my intention for many years to establish a conversational podcast with a workplace safety lawyer. The opportunity to pitch the idea occurred earlier this year and the first episode of Cabbage Salad and Safety is now available.

Siobhan Flores-Walsh of Corrs Chambers Westgarth (pictured right with the author) was the lucky lawyer and she has been enormously supportive also providing the recording equipment, personnel and opportunity. More…

Suicide Prevention Forum and Mental Health First Aid for workers 6

In March 2016, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its latest figures into the causes of death. A lot of media attention was given to the figures showing an increase in the suicide rate.  It found that

“Among those aged 15 to 44, the leading causes of death were Intentional self-harm (suicide)…”

Dr Claire Kelly, Manager, Youth Programs, Mental Health First Aid Australia, talking at the Suicide Prevention Forum 2016

Dr Claire Kelly, Manager, Youth Programs, Mental Health First Aid Australia, talking at the Suicide Prevention Forum 2016

On the day those figures were released, the Creative Ministries Network was holding its Suicide Prevention Forum. More…

Where is work-related suicide in the Suicide Prevention Strategy? 4

Cover of Suicide_Prevention_2020_Strategy_Final_6.sflbFor all the discussion of workplace mental health, work-related suicide continues to receive little attention.  Part of this is because unexpected fatalities are shocking and distressing, even more so when the deaths are the result of the worker’s own efforts.

Recently the Mental Health Commission of Western Australia published its latest Suicide Prevention 2020 Strategy.  The strategy has many useful suggestions but it is reflective of the mainstream approach to mental health that is dominated by a few major players in the mental health promotion sector.  The strategy falls alarmingly short on the prevention of work-related mental health risks More…

Left in the abyss – the impact of a workplace death on relatives 9

In 2013, the University of Sydney established a research project into how workplace deaths affect the families of deceased workers.  In its information to participants, it stated:

“We are inviting you to participate in a study investigating the consequences of workplace death for surviving families. It will also consider how well official responses, such as workers’ compensation the provision of information and support, meet families’ needs. The aim is to identify improvements that will help to better manage the consequences of workplace death for surviving families.”

Two years later, the researchers have released some interim data. More…