Sep 10

WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.

I just finished an interpreting assignment where our last destination was New York.  One day we were returning to the hotel from an appointment and the subway suddenly stopped due to a sick passenger.  My client asked what was going on and I explained, feeling like the conductor after saying “We should be moving shortly.”  She made the comment that this kind of delay happens in Japan as well, but is often due to suicides.  I thought she was referring to Tokyo as she is from Hokkaido, but she said that even back home it is an issue.

I was reminded of our exchange this morning when the news showed politicians promoting a spring suicide prevention (自殺防止 or jisatsu boushi) campaign called, 「お父さん、眠れてる?」 (otousan, nemureteru? or Dad, are you sleeping ok?).  Not to make light of a heavy topic, but I like the design of the web page where the father and his school-age daughter are surrounded by sheep with distinctive personalities (Ms. Kawaii, Mr. Cool, etc.), as well as one peacefully at rest.

Below the tagline on the right it reads “Cabinet Sleep Campaign,” indicating that the central government has gotten involved with its citizens’ sleeping habits in an attempt to reduce the suicide rate.  Some of the various attachments on this top page are a suicide countermeasure white paper, suicide statistics and consultation services from various government agencies.  This last one is a list of links that provide resources for assorted mental health issues.  Delving further into the site you can find things like more statistics and information, an explanation of the connection between lack of sleep and depression, and 16 questions regarding sleep answered by the Japanese Society of Sleep Research (i.e. how does Japan’s sleep amount compare to the rest of the world, what are sleeping pills’ side effects).

The webpage also showcases a tv spot which I found interesting for the way it tries to pull at fathers’ heartstrings.  It depicts a father yawning as he looks at his daughter and says, “Come to think of it, I don’t know her keitai mail address.  I don’t know her friends.  I don’t know her boyfriend.”  The daughter breaks in with, “I know!  Dad, you haven’t been sleeping lately, have you?”  As the music starts, a voiceover and a line on the bottom read, “If you haven’t slept well for two weeks, it might be a sign of depression.  Please consult with your personal physician or a specialist.”  At the end the daughter says to her dad, “It’s not good if you don’t know about your body or about me,” and otousan smiles in recognition.

Upon first glance, this seems like a really comprehensive educational and public health campaign that hopefully will help remedy a grave problem.  I am curious as to how much awareness there is of it in the general population, as well as what effect (if any) it has had on the country’s suicide rate (which evidently peaks in March at the end of the fiscal year, hence the timing of the campaign).

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