A growing number of Japanese have become recluses

Mental health in Japan

A growing number of Japanese have become recluses

Pressures from work and society are causing some to shun the world

ABOUT A YEAR ago Mika Shibata’s youngest son returned to the family home and went wordlessly upstairs. He has yet to emerge from his bedroom. At the age of 26, he sleeps during the day and stays awake at night. His mother feeds and shelters him, hoping he will emerge from this state. But she frets he never will. “The longer this situation continues, the harder it is for him to step back into society,” she says.

The Shibata family’s pain is shared by many others in Japan. The government says there are more than 1m hikikomori, or recluses, defined as people who have played no part in society for at least six months. Many have barely stepped outside their homes for decades. A handful of alarming crimes have pushed them back into public view. In May a recluse, aged 51, stabbed two people, including a child, to death in the city of Kawasaki before committing suicide. In June a retired official murdered his own son, a middle-aged hikikomori, because he said he feared he might hurt someone.

When the phenomenon became widely noticed over a generation ago, few understood it. Recluses were considered lazy or odd. Mental-health care was scarce and official support nonexistent. Parents felt responsible and were too mortified to look for help. But even now, occasional crimes involving recluses stoke concerns that they are dangerous, says Morito Ishizaki, a recovered hikikomori who runs a magazine for sufferers. In fact, he explains, they are rarely criminal. Many have just buckled under pressure at school or work and have withdrawn to their childhood sanctuaries.

Support groups are springing up around the country. Tokyo is among several cities with helplines and websites that try to reach shut-ins, who range from teenage school dropouts to salarymen who have been sacked. Ageing parents often come seeking help, says Ichiro Miyazawa of Tokyo’s metropolitan government. He says they worry that after they die, their hikikomori children will not be able to survive.

More than half of Japan’s recluses are now aged over 40, according to a Cabinet Office survey this year. That shocked the government, which had assumed the condition mainly afflicted the young. Tamaki Saito, a psychiatrist who popularised the term hikikomori, says the government is partly to blame for turning a blind eye. Now the problem has grown. If it is not tackled seriously, many more might become recluses, he says.

Yet luring isolated people in their 40s and 50s back into society is hard, Mr Miyazawa accepts. The city can send counsellors out to homes only if asked. But often families themselves cannot communicate with their reclusive children. Mrs Shibata speculates that her son was bullied at work, but cannot be sure. He has not said a word since he returned. His two brothers cannot talk to him. One day the bright, sensitive man she knew will bounce back, she hopes. But many may never come out of their shells.

参考翻译:

大约一年前,柴田美嘉的小儿子回到家中,一言不发地上楼。他到今天还没有从卧室中出来过。26岁的他白天睡觉,晚上清醒。他的母亲喂养他并给他提供住所,希望他能从这种状态中走出来。但是她担心他永远不会走出来。她说:“这种情况持续的时间越长,他就越难以重返社会。”

日本还有许多人也经历了和柴田家族一样的痛苦。政府表示,日本有超过100万hikikomori(或称为“隐居者”)。隐居者的定义是至少有六个月没有参与过社会活动的人。很多隐居者数十年来几乎没有踏出家门一步。几起令人震惊的犯罪将他们推回了公众视野。今年5月,一名51岁的隐士在川崎市刺伤了两人,其中包括一名儿童,然后自杀。同年6月,一位中年高级退休官员谋杀了他自己的儿子,因为他说他担心自己可能会伤害到他人。

当这一现象在一代人前被广泛注意时,很少有人理解它。隐士被认为懒惰或古怪。心理健康咨询服务聊胜于无,政府也不提供支持。父母感到他们对隐居的子女负有责任,并且因为过于羞愧而不去寻求帮助。石井盛人之前也是一名隐居者,现在他已经恢复正常,并创办了一份针对隐居者的杂志。他说,即使是现在,偶尔发生的涉及到隐居者的犯罪也引起了人们对其危险性的担忧。他解释说,实际上,他们很少会犯罪。很多人只是被学校或职场的压力压垮,并缩回到童年的庇护所中。

针对隐居族的支持小组正在全国各地兴起。东京是少数几个有求助热线和网站的城市之一,这些热线和网站试图联系那些一直待在家里的人,这些人包括辍学青少年以及被解雇的工薪族等。东京市政府的宫泽一郎(Ichiro Miyazawa)说,年迈的父母经常来寻求帮助。他说,他们担心自己的孩子死后将无法生存。

日本内阁府(Cabinet Office)今年的一项调查显示,目前日本有一半以上的隐士年龄在40岁以上。这让政府很震惊,因为他们认为这种情况主要发生在年轻人身上。使“隐蔽青年”一词流行起来的精神病学家齐藤玉明(Tamaki Saito)表示,人们对“隐蔽青年”一词视而不见,在一定程度上要归咎于政府。现在,问题已经扩大。他说,如果不认真对待这个问题,更多的人可能会成为隐士。

然而,要吸引40和50多岁的隐居者重返社会是很难的,宫泽先生对这一点表示认同。市政府只有在收到请求时才能派出咨询师上门。但家庭本身往往无法与隐居的孩子沟通。希八田太太猜测她儿子在工作中受到欺凌,但不能肯定,他回来后一个字也没说过,他的两个兄弟也不能跟他说话。她希望有一天,这个她以前所认识的聪慧且敏感的男人会重新振作起来。但很多人可能永远也走不出来了。

词汇:

• Recluse n. 隐士
• Reclusive a. 遁世的
• Shun v. 避开
• Fret n./v. 烦恼
• Stab v. 刺,戳
• Mortified a. 难堪的
• Stoke v. 增加,加剧
• Sack n./v. 解雇,炒鱿鱼

结构: