Going Deeper into the Causes of Suffering and Developing Broader Responses
While the response of a wide variety of sectors of Japanese society—government, civil society, and even religious—has been substantive with the increasing coordination of activities for suicide prevention, these initiatives are still largely about prevention, and thus reactive in nature. In terms of the Four Noble Truths, they address the direct experience of suffering (dukkha) in the 1st Noble Truth, basically a reactive response to an emergency situation. Without a doubt, the situation in Japan has been critical and deserved of a strong emergency response. However, even with a reduction in the suicide numbers over the past two years, mental disease is still a rampant problem in all sectors and demographics of Japanese society. Getting at the root of the problem involves a much more rigorous analysis as an entire system of causes and conditions. Life Link has drawn up models examining these causes and conditions and has also critiqued some of the wider social forces, such as the increasing gap between the rich and the poor in Japan. However, beyond the progressive and proactive work of Life Link, does the Japanese government and entrenched mental health care system with vested interests (i.e. the pharmaceutical companies) really want to address these wider systemic issues?
The suicide prevention priests were born out of the fact that these mainstream interests were not interested in confronting the deeper systemic issues and seemed more than happy to work with the pharmaceutical companies to routinely prescribe psychopharmaceuticals by which they hope the population at large can continue to maintain the famous Japanese dedication to overwork. The Buddhist priests involved in this work have encountered directly the wide variety of suffering people who have been used and tossed to the side by a social system bent on keeping the Japanese economic miracle perpetually in bloom—the bankrupt and overworked business men; the young people estranged by their education and employment futures; the elderly abandoned by family and community; the homemakers stretched to the limit in raising children on their own; and the common adult who cannot keep his/her job or footing in society. In the following two profiles, we will look at priests who through their immersion in the 1st Noble Truth of suffering have moved forward into a deeper examination of the causes and have thus come to new, wider ranging responses to the suicide problem.
Go to: Part 5: The Enlightenment of the Suicidal and a Network for Wellbeing (Rev. Jotetsu Nemoto)