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In Japan, back-to-back tragedies renew calls for boosting neglected mental health resources and education

“Support for mental health education and mental health patients in Japan is very behind compared to Western countries,” said Masako Kageyama, a mental health expert at Osaka University.

A pair of high-profile tragedies in Japan over the weekend — a deadly arson attack and the suicide of a pop star — have highlighted growing concerns about the country’s mental health crisis, which experts say has been exacerbated by isolation and anxiety during the pandemic, the Washington Post reports.

The back-to-back news stories renewed calls for more resources and education on mental health needs in Japan, which has seen a rise in suicides among youths and women amid the covid crisis.

On Friday, a patient at a psychiatric clinic in Osaka, in western Japan, was accused of setting a fire while a counseling session was in progress, killing 24 people and leaving three, including himself, in critical condition. It was one of the deadliest arson attacks in Japan in the past 20 years.

One day after the attack, Japanese actress and singer Sayaka Kanda died in an apparent suicide in Sapporo, in northern Japan. The 35-year-old became famous as the voice of Anna in the Japanese version of Disney’s “Frozen” and was playing the lead role in the musical “My Fair Lady” in Sapporo.

“Support for mental health education and mental health patients in Japan is very behind compared to Western countries,” said Masako Kageyama, a mental health expert at Osaka University.

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