January 26, 2015

Exploring the Challenges of Suicide Prevention in Japan

Each day, more than 80 Japanese die by suicide, a rate nearly double that of the United States.

Michael D. Fetters, M.D., M.P.H., M.A.
Dr. Fetters

In a local effort to help educate the public about the suicide problem, Michael D. Fetters, M.D., M.P.H., M.A., professor and director of the Japanese Family Health Program worked with the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies to present a program combining film, lectures, and discussion forums. The series of activities are co-sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan in Detroit and the Japan Business Society of Detroit.

"If that many people died each year from car collisions, we would have major new regulations and safety measures. But, because they die in anguish from suicide, there hasn't been the response that we need to create change,” suggests Alan Teo, M.D., M.S., a psychiatrist and event organizer. 

Saving 10,000

An Academic Round Table kicks-off on Thursday, February 5th from 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m. in Room 1636 at the University of Michigan School of Social Work Building, 1080 South University Avenue in Ann Arbor, as part of the Center for Japanese Studies noon lecture series. Several University of Michigan faculty will present from their own discipline, e.g., literature, anthropology, medicine, and nursing on the theme of "Beyond Seppuku: A Multidisciplinary Context to Suicide in Japan." (Seppuku is a ritual form of suicide that was traditionally used by samurai.) The presentations will be followed by a panel discussion. 

Free, public screenings of the award winning documentary Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan (Japanese with English subtitles) will take place on Friday, February 6th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at University of Michigan’s Forum Hall, 4th Floor, Palmer Commons, 100 Washtenaw Avenue in Ann Arbor, and Saturday, February 7th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., at the Holiday Inn on 17123 North Laurel Park Drive in Livonia. A short lecture by Dr. Teo providing tips on how to recognize and help a person at-risk for suicide will precede each film screening. An expert panel Q&A session will follow the film. Friday’s lecture, screening and discussions will be held in English and Saturday’s will be in Japanese. Both forums will feature speakers with expertise in medical and psychological treatment, as well as medical interpretation when caring for at-risk patients.

Saving 10,000

Saving 10,000 is a documentary that provides a thoughtful exploration of the suicide epidemic in Japan. Created by Rene Duignan, an Irish economist working in Tokyo, it was inspired by his remorse when a friend and neighbor took her own life. Since its debut, Saving 10,000 has received major media and public attention, as well as critical acclaim at several film festivals. It has achieved more than 400,000 views on YouTube and has even been screened for legislators at the Japanese National Diet.

Dr. Fetters notes, "Given the large population of Japanese-Americans in Southeast Michigan, we hope the forums and film screening will help raise awareness about depression and suicide. If we can help prevent even one suicide locally, the event will be a huge success."

For more information on the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies and the events, see http://www.ii.umich.edu/cjs/ or read the article in The University Record.