“Just imagining if I was in that situation right now, I think the #suicide attempt would have happened a lot earlier, and probably I think I would have succeeded.”

Sun, Feb 28, 2021, 06:01
Motoko Rich, Hikari Hida
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Writing about her challenges, Nao, who is now married, said she wanted to help others who might be feeling desperate, particularly at a time when so many people are sequestered from friends and colleagues. “Knowing someone went through or is going through something similar as you – and knowing that someone is seeking professional help for that and that it actually helped – would encourage people to do a similar thing,” said Nao, who said she wanted to help remove the taboos associated with mental illness in Japan.

Nao’s husband could see how much she struggled with the long working hours and brutal office culture at the consulting firm where they first met. Then, when she quit, she felt adrift.

During the pandemic, women have suffered disproportionate job losses. They made up the bulk of employees within the industries most affected by infection control measures, including restaurants, bars and hotels.

About half of all working women hold part-time or contract jobs, and when business flatlined, companies cut those employees first. In the first nine months of last year, 1.44 million such workers lost their jobs, more than half of them women.

I just felt like I lost everything
Although Nao quit her consulting job voluntarily to seek psychiatric treatment, she remembers feeling wracked with insecurity, no longer able to pay her rent. When she and her then fiance decided to accelerate their wedding plans, her father accused her of being selfish. “I just felt like I lost everything,” she recalled.

Those feelings, she said, triggered the depression that led to her suicide attempt. After spending some time in a psychiatric hospital and continuing medication, her self-confidence improved. She found a four-day-a-week job working in the digital operation of a magazine group and is now able to manage the workload.

In the past, suicide rates in Japan have spiked during times of economic crisis, including after the burst of the property-based bubble in the 1990s and the global downturn in 2008. During those periods, it was men who were most affected by job losses and who killed themselves at higher rates. Historically, suicides among men in Japan have outnumbered those among women by a factor of at least two to one.

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