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Japan's Suicide Epidemic

Untreated depression is often to blame

(HealthDay) -- Almost 32,000 Japanese people killed themselves last year, which is roughly the same number of suicides that occurred in the United States. But, Japan has less than half the population of America. So, why are so many Japanese choosing suicide?

The biggest reason may be untreated depression, says this ABC News article. In Japan, depression isn't seen as a medical disorder but as a weakness.

Adding to the problem is that many anti-depressant drugs haven't been approved for use in Japan. The popular drugs Prozac and Zoloft, for instance, simply aren't available to the Japanese, although the drug Paxil recently has been approved. Also, the Japanese health-care system doesn't allow direct access to clinical psychologists. Patients must first see their regular physician, who may lack training or be unwilling to diagnose depression.

"Mental health problems have not been considered as important as physical problems, so the status given to psychology professionals has accordingly been low," says Yoshitaka Otsuka, of Japan's Clinical Psychology Certification Board.

So, rather than ask for help, many Japanese, especially the men, take matters into their own hands and kill themselves. Things may be changing, though. According to the article, some Japanese companies are starting to offer counseling at work.

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