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Survey: Employers Fail to Provide Adequate Mental Health Care in Japan

TOKYO, October 19, 2016 – A survey conducted by TELL, a Tokyo-based non-profit organization, has found that few English-speaking Japan-based workers believe their employers provide them with adequate mental health care support; over 50 percent of respondents said their employers do not offer mental health care services at all. 

The majority of respondents to the survey, conducted online in English, also said they feel uncomfortable discussing mental health concerns in the workplace, and noted that even when mental health care services are offered, confidentiality is a concern.

Asked what mental health issues concerned them most, respondents to TELL’s survey reported being interested in support for depression, stress management, anxiety, suicide awareness and prevention, helping kids cope with stress, and school bullying.

TELL, which has served the international community in Japan since 1973, providing a Lifeline crisis hotline and mental health counseling and outreach services, conducted the online survey to assess attitudes toward mental health issues and the availability of mental health services in the corporate environment in Japan.

“While Japan’s social welfare net is in some respects excellent, in other areas there are significant gaps,” said Roberto De Vido, TELL’s Executive Director. “Mental health services in Japan and Asia generally are unable to meet demand, and while employers have a theoretical duty of care to employees and their families, many human resources directors and senior executives are unsure how to assess demand, and face challenges delivering services to non-Japanese speakers.

“An additional complication in Japan is that few mental health services are covered by national health insurance,” De Vido continued. “And yet, the business case for caring about employee mental health is easily made. A mentally healthy workforce is linked to lower medical costs, as well as less absenteeism and presenteeism. And a mentally unhealthy  workforce is associated with increased loss of productivity. Early identification of mental illness can be mitigated through timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment, saving money and not only helping maintain employee productivity but also boosting employee retention.”

The mental health problems of employees have become a major occupational health issue in Japan. More than 26 percent of businesses surveyed in 2014 by the Health Ministry said they had cases of workers resigning or taking leave of more than one month for mental health reasons. This was up from just 7.6 percent in a survey conducted three years before. The bulk of those businesses, or 84 percent of respondents, said problems of mental health affected their business performance negatively; the monetary value of the burden on a company incurred by an employee on leave due to mental health issues is ¥4,220,000 per employee on leave.

About TELL

TELL was founded in 1973 to provide crisis and suicide prevention support for the international community in Japan, and in 1991 added face-to-face counseling and outreach services that bridge gaps in the Japanese language-focused health care system. TELL’s services include free phone counseling and information, professional face-to-face counseling, and educational workshops. In 2011 alone, the TELL Lifeline responded to nearly 6,000 calls for help, TELL Counseling provided over 3.200 professional psychotherapy and counseling sessions, and TELL’s workshops and outreach programs provided training and support to hundreds in multiple settings, such as schools, businesses and NGOs. For more information on TELL and its services, please visit https://telljp.wpengine.com/.