TELL Japan


Depression and other mental health issues
Culture Shock
Substance abuse and addiction
Domestic violence

Depression and other mental health issues

Mental illness is difficult to define, and there are different ideas about its causes. One theory is that its roots are organic (i.e., due to abnormal functioning in the brain) and that chemical imbalances in the brain lead to mental disorders. Another theory is that it stems from a difficult social environment or from “faulty” learning experiences that have led to inappropriate or unusual behavior. Such behavior may be viewed as a sign of mental illness.

Actually, the above factors overlap and interact. Organically rooted mental illness may lead to inappropriate behavior, and unusual behavior may lead to changes in brain chemistry. Mental illness is thus not cut-and-dried; rather, it encompasses a broad range of conditions, interpretations and behaviors. For this reason, it is viewed differently from physical illness, where symptoms can often be related to a cause and a standard treatment can be prescribed.

Today, many mental health practitioners regard mental illness as a result of both nature and nurture. A person is considered to be suffering from a major mental illness if they have developed a lifestyle that seriously impedes their ability to function in their day-to-day activities.

We all feel “depressed” from time to time. It is such a common experience that we all have everyday ways of describing how it feels: sad, blue, down, bummed out, etc. However when these feelings become prolonged or very deep and affect the way a person eats and sleeps, the way they feel about themselves, and the way they think about things, this is a depressive disorder. This is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better.

Culture shock

Culture shock is a condition of emotional upset and tension that becomes chronic for a period of varying duration. It is experienced by people who, exposed to life in a new and unfamiliar setting, react with anxiety, irritation, and frustration. Having left their home countries with their familiar, manageable routines and social patterns, they are now confronted with the necessity of living in a new location in which everything is different. The customs, rules and mores of the new culture may be very unfamiliar and uncomfortable to them. This combined with the distance between where they live now and their family and friends at home can make life very challenging. The necessity of living in a state of loneliness, confusion about the proper procedures to follow and a lack of control over their life has a compounding exasperating effect which wears down the emotional defenses; eventually they may find their nerves increasingly frayed.

Substance abuse and addiction

Substance abuse and addiction is an enormous topic that includes many habits and activities that are socially acceptable as well as those generally acknowledged to be harmful. Substances open to abuse include alcohol; nicotine; illegal drugs; prescription drugs, including barbiturates, amphetamines and tranquilizers; solvents, such as glues, petrol, aerosol propellants and cleaning agents. Someone can also have addiction issues with food; caffeine;sugar; shopping; porn; and sex. Addiction not only directly impacts the addict’s personal well-being (health and finances)  but has a huge strain on all those in their lives. Both personal (family and friends) and professional (employer or university) can find themselves struggling with having an effective and healthy relationship with the addict.

Domestic violence

Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of behaviors involving physical, sexual, economic and emotional abuse, alone or in combination, by an intimate partner often for the purpose of establishing and maintaining power and control over the other partner. The origins of domestic violence are in social, legal and cultural norms, some historical and some current, including acceptance of violent behavior by men as the heads of households. While domestic violence occurs in all types of intimate relationships, it is overwhelmingly a problem of violence perpetrated by men against women (Commission on Domestic Violence Fatalities. Report to the Governor of New York State, October 1997). However, it is important to acknowledge that men too can be abused by their female partners, and abuse can occur in same-sex partnerships. A 2001 U.S. study revealed that 85 percent of the victims were female with a male batterer. The other 15 percent includes intimate partner violence in gay and lesbian relationships and men who were battered by a female partner (Rennison, C.M., U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001. 2003).


Sexual Identity

For convenience, sexual orientation can be divided into three categories by gender attraction: straight (different-gender attraction), gay (same-gender attraction), and bisexual (both- gender attraction). Most societies enforce compulsory heterosexuality, and most people identify themselves as straight. Those who do not are almost certain to feel themselves the targets of their society’s hostility to a greater or lesser extent. While someone may accept their own sexual identity, society treats being gay with a great deal of fear and prejudice. Even when someone who is gay can accept themselves inside, outside forces can be constant and often challenging that acceptance. The battle within may be ongoing and painful.


Sometimes shortened to Trans or TG are people whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. To understand this, one must understand the difference between biological sex, which is one’s body (genitals, chromosomes, etc.), and social gender, which refers to levels of masculinity and femininity. Often, society mixes sex and gender, viewing them as the same thing. But, gender and sex is not the same thing. For example, a female with a masculine gender identity or who identifies as a man.

Sometimes used as an umbrella to describe anyone whose identity or behavior falls outside of stereotypical gender norms. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation (attraction to people of a specific gender.) Therefore, transgender people may additionally identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

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