Japan warns of post-quake mental health risks

TOKYO, June 10, 2011 (AFP) - A Japanese government report on suicide prevention warned Friday of the mental health burden for survivors of the quake, tsunami and nuclear disasters three months ago.

In the annual white paper on suicide, Tokyo warned that many disaster survivors might experience long-term anxiety although their symptoms may be more moderate than with clinical conditions such as depression.

The 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami on March 11 in northern Japan traumatised many people in the region, wrote Yoshiharu Kim, director of adult mental health at the National Institute of Mental Health.

"People tend to feel a sense of guilt after surviving when those who tried to escape the disasters with them died," he wrote in the paper.

"Adding to the shock of having to see damaged bodies (to identify dead family members), concerns have been raised for chronic depressive conditions and complex grief" among survivors, he said.

The natural disasters, which left more 23,000 people dead or missing, triggered the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986 and forced hundreds of thousands of residents to leave their homes.

The government should offer mental health screenings to help affected individuals get referred to specialists, Kim wrote.

Japan, with more than 30,000 suicides a year in a population of 128 million, has long had one of the world's highest suicide rates, behind only a group of former Soviet bloc countries, says the World Health Organization.

Other news