Written with extracts translated from The Kobe Shimbun
April 26 2020
KOBE -In March, the Yokohama District Court (judicial judge) sentenced the defendant to a maximum sentence in a case in which 19 inhabitants were killed at the facility “Tsukui Yamayurien” in Sagamihara City. During the trial, Satoshi Uematsu’s death row prisoner repeatedly said, “Severely disabled people make people unhappy,” and it became clear that the distorted prejudice was one of the motives. On the other hand, experts and bereaved families complain that they wanted a sense of discrimination in society at the trial. Around the same time, an incident of abuse of inpatients with schizophrenia was discovered at Kamide Hospital in Nishi-ku, Kobe. Why can prejudice and discrimination not go away? Kenjiro Sakata, Dean of Kobe Gakuin University, Faculty of Comprehensive Rehabilitation, who is familiar with support for people with mental illness, says, “There is a misunderstanding at the root, and understanding is gained by directly contacting the parties.”
The Sagamihara case and the Kobe abuse case revealed the plight of people with mental disabilities.
“Mental illness itself has long been discriminated against. History dates back to the Edo period’s Zaraji (Juro) prison. It had been a subject of crackdown in the early Meiji era, and there is a bitter past that has been isolated from society. The need for medical treatment was recognized before the war, and a specialized hospital was opened, but after the war, closed wards with locks were commonplace and human rights have been seriously violated. In the 1980s, doctors complained of the need for an open ward, and the number increased in Hyogo.
Are there any traces of the history of discrimination?
“It’s obvious if you look at the psychiatric hospitals that were built a long time ago and the places where you can get in. Most of them are located far away from the city. It’s evidence that society wants to separate themselves from their lives. When I tried to build a building, I was facing the opposite of the area. Technically, it is called a facility conflict.”
Efforts are being visibly improved to improve the environment for people with physical disabilities, such as assisting station staff when getting on and off trains in wheelchairs and Braille blocks for visually impaired people. However, the response to people with mental disorders is delayed.
“I used to work at a facility for physically handicapped children,“ Nemunoki Gakuen ”(Shizuoka Prefecture). It was a time when discrimination against the physically handicapped was still strong, but I think it has improved little by little. The idea of a universal society that considers human rights has been widely permeated. We also supported welfare education. Classes to understand the environment of people with disabilities through moral education in elementary, junior high and high schools and comprehensive learning will be held. “Walking around the city in a wheelchair or walking with an eye mask, but it’s difficult to experience symptoms of mental illness, such as delusions and hallucinations of schizophrenia.”
So I don’t understand. What is needed to reduce the distance from society?
“It’s important to get rid of misunderstandings for people with mental illness. Many people see it as“ scary ”or“ don’t know what to do. ”However, the true form is hard to live but hard to live in. People who are living in the United States, who are socially vulnerable people who need assistance, do not have any inherent harm to people, yet tend to be isolated in the community and society. However, it is necessary to create a system that can support it. ”
A common feature of the two cases mentioned above is the damage to the facilities where the patients should be protected.
“In the case of Kobe’s Kande Hospital, the nurses and nursing assistants who are the specialists who care are the perpetrators. In addition, multiple people have violated the patients. In the past, facility staff uttered harassment and violence. Therefore, the Act on Prevention of Abuse of Persons with Disabilities was enforced in 2012, but it shows that there is a limit to just making a law. is”
Sakata fosters professionals such as mental health workers at university. What did you pay attention to when teaching students?
“Some people honestly say that they are“ scary ”before they go to hospitals and facilities for practical training. I will send them to the site without denying them. Then, after the training, the students will see a change.” There is no misunderstanding when you interact with someone who has a mental illness, such as schizophrenia. Patients continue to talk about their delusions in their own words. Students think that such a thing can’t happen, but when they hear it, they realize the suffering of the patient. It’s more compelling than learning theory in a textbook. ”
When experience brings up human resources?
“Yes, students begin to want to treat and support patients who are trying to live hard while fighting illness. Working in the field of mental health welfare makes me feel rewarded and naturally develops professionalism. ”
I hope citizens can share similar experiences.
“Since the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, it is an abstract expression called“ heart disease ”, but understanding of mental illness has advanced. The number of symposiums in which citizens participate has increased, and it has become a place for people with disabilities to interact directly with citizens. You can also hear the voices of the parties directly through presentations of experiences, etc. I think that this is the first step to eliminate prejudice. ”
“I would like to expect peer support staff in such situations. People who are suffering from depression etc. are working at welfare facilities while receiving medical treatment and social support, and are helping patients with similar circumstances to return to society. In Kansai, it is increasing little by little. It is a valuable presence that can represent the thoughts of people with disabilities, and can act as an intermediary with citizens. ”
“Recently, there are cases where peer support staff are invited to local schools to give on-the-job lessons to appeal their understanding. It is ideal for removing prejudice in the youth. Accumulation of such activities will lead to a society without discrimination. I wonder if it will continue. ”
Sakata Kenjiro Born in Osaka in 1955. Worked as a mental health welfare worker at a neurology clinic in Akashi City after working as a teacher of the “Nemu no Gakuen” founded by the late Mariko Miyagi. After serving as a professor at Kobe Gakuin University, he has been in his current position since 2019.