chapter  6
43 Pages

Human Rights in the Japanese Mental Health System

T he obstacles to attaining equal rights for the 'mentally dis-ordered' are assessed with reference to recent legislative reforms. Mental disorders are a pan-human occurrence and so too are the social prejudices which accompany them. In this sense the mentally disordered2 can be seen as a 'universal minority' as the way they are treated has a 'distinct commonality throughout the world'.3 In Japan a psychiatric diagnosis has traditionally culminated in a host of discriminatory social and legal prescriptions resulting in extreme desocialization.·

The expression and identification of mental disorders is highly culturally patterned. 5 Public reactions to a psychiatric diagnosis may be one of tolerance or abandonment and the sick-role may be viewed as transient or permanent. All of these conceptions will have important ramifications for those labelled 'mentally ill' and the social space they occupy. Socio-psychological perspectives offer an insight on the management of psychiatric disorders within a culture and reflect the complex interplay of cultural factors and biomedicine. It is argued that the contemporary mode of psychiatric care in Japan is a product of coexisting modern and traditional medical systems operating within an infrastructure of social relations embedded in Confucian ideology.6