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‘Use Japan N-disaster to reform mental health’

After a disaster such as Fukushima accident, the prevalence of severe mental disorders, such as psychosis, increase.

Updated: Oct 24, 2011, 22:43 PM IST

Berlin: Japan should use the higher rate of
mental health problems after the Fukushima nuclear accident to
revolutionalise outdated attitudes to depression in the
country, a top health official said on Monday.

Speaking at the World Health Summit in Berlin, Shekhar
Saxena, from the mental health division of the World Health
Organisation, said the mental aspects of disasters tended to
be ignored in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

"Mental health treatment is needed for almost everyone
who is affected by the disaster," Saxena told a packed
audience at the summit. "Unfortunately, some neglect
occurred."

Officials have previously warned of an increase in
depression cases in a country where this illness still carries
a stigma largely overcome in the West.

It is only recently that urban areas of Japan have begun
to tackle the taboo surrounding depression, a condition
euphemistically known as "heart `flu" in the country.

After a disaster such as the Fukushima accident, the
prevalence of severe mental disorders, such as psychosis,
increase from two to three percent of the population to three
to four per cent, said Saxena.

More mild mental disorders like depression increase from
one in ten people to one in five, he added.

Treating such disorders is best done within the community
rather than in medical institutions, he said, arguing for an
overhaul of attitudes and the system in Japan.

"In Japan, mental health care is largely undertaken by
specialised institutions whereas it is more effective if it is
undertaken at a community level," he said.

"We recommend for Japan to utilise the opportunity
presented by the disaster to actually change the system to
make it more community oriented."

PTI