Adjusting to life in Japan can be tough, as it often requires having to navigate norms and customs that are different from those of your home country, without the immediate support of family and friends. It is normal to feel overwhelmed at times, so you may wish to seek mental health help so as to manage low moods and negative emotions. A wide range of English-language mental health resources are available in Japan, and we will explain five possible avenues in this article, so be sure to try an option you feel is right for you if the need arises.
What To Keep In Mind When Searching For Professional Help
To start with, it is important that you understand the difference between various kinds of mental health professionals. The terms clinical psychologists and psychiatrists are often used interchangeably, but these two groups of professionals actually provide very different services.
Clinical psychologists, otherwise known as counselors and therapists, offer a listening ear and apply psycho-social techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to beef up coping strategies in response to problems. They are, however, not qualified to prescribe medication. On the other hand, psychiatrists receive medical training, where they learn how to diagnose mental ailments based on examining physical symptoms. Hence, they are qualified to prescribe you medication.
It is thus crucial to take a step back and think carefully about the kind of mental health help you may need, instead of randomly choosing between the two. In addition, choosing a mental health professional requires serious and thorough thought, so don’t choose one based solely on word of mouth or social media recommendations.
Since you are entrusting someone with your sensitive information, finding one whom you can confide in is paramount, so don’t be afraid to “shop around” first. Even if you engage a professional, don’t be afraid to terminate the relationship and seek help elsewhere in the event that you feel that they are not suited for your needs. Take things slow; take your time to find a mental health professional whom you can click with and rely on.
Long-Term Mental Health Options
1. Counseling Services
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may find that problems keep ruminating in your head, thus depleting you of the energy needed to handle them. This is where engaging a professional counselor can facilitate your emotional health, as you get a trusted ally who not only journeys alongside you through your highs and lows, but also prompts you to achieve clarity and dig into your inner strength.
The International Mental Health Professionals Japan is a wonderful resource to refer to, as it offers an extensive, nationwide network of individuals and organizations that offer counseling services, both physical and online. Do refer to this website to get in touch with several counselors before committing to the counselor whose services best fit your budget, schedule, and most importantly, dispositions.
The Tokyo English Life Line (TELL), which we will touch upon more later, is an English-language mental health resource in Japan that offers individual counseling services in Tokyo, Okinawa, and Yokohama. Another avenue to seek help from is the Tokyo Counseling Services. Besides individual counseling services, Tokyo Counseling Services also provides couples counseling and family therapy, so their services may be a lifeline and source of solace if your concerns fall under these categories.
Do note that Japanese health insurance doesn’t cover counseling services, so if you intend to consult a counselor on a regular basis, you will need to factor in counseling fees into your monthly budget.
2. Psychiatrists/Medical Professionals
If you find that you are persistently feeling low and disinterested in life and perhaps feeling unequipped to cope with the turmoil swirling all around you, medical treatment may be beneficial for you. In this case, you may wish to consult a qualified medical psychiatrist and see if there is a medical diagnosis. You may find that having the opinion of a medical professional can be quite reassuring, as they can provide some insight that you might not have otherwise.
To find such psychiatrists, try checking if there is a Kokoro No Clinic (こころのクリニック) in your area, since these clinics are quite commonly found in Japan, especially in urban cities. The psychiatrist there will be able to provide treatment, if necessary, that can enhance your mental health.
Another advantage of seeking medical treatment is that the psychiatrist can write you a letter so that you can take a break from work. Many companies in Japan allow their full-time employees to take a leave of absence due to stress or mental health issues. You also don’t have to worry about your medical bills, since you can utilize your Japanese health insurance to foot these bills. In short, don’t hesitate to take advantage of psychiatric services if you need to.
Mental Health Options You Can Employ Immediately
3. Telephone Hotlines
If you are the kind of person who prefers to talk things through and would like to get things off your chest quickly, you will probably like the idea of having someone listen actively to your outpouring and help you understand your situation better. In this case, telephone hotlines are something that you may want to turn to.
One such useful hotline is the aforementioned TELL (Tokyo English Life Line), which is a nonprofit organization that provides phone counseling at 03-5774-0992 daily from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm. It is free and safeguards your privacy, so you can rest assured that information will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Additionally, for ladies who live in Kansai, you may wish to turn to the NGO Network for Foreigners Assistance Kobe and call 078-232-1290 from 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Fridays, as the foreign volunteers there specialize in supporting women. In any case, prompting yourself to put your feelings into words and having someone else validate your thoughts should help to lift the heavy load off your shoulders, as the mere act of giving voice to your feelings empowers you. A cathartic exercise indeed.
4. Mental Health Apps
If you are experiencing culture shock or feeling lost and confused about adapting to your new home, you may want to do something about this wave of negative emotions. But perhaps you’d prefer not to offload them to a counselor or psychiatrist. In this case, mental health apps may be a good option since you can harness them to sort out your feelings and thoughts without having to participate in social interaction.
A great app to try is SAM (Self-Help for Anxiety Management), as it lets you record your anxiety levels and guides you to identify the triggers that may have caused such panicky feelings. Being aware of your triggers will enable you not to fall under the mercy of your pain points. Not only that, SAM comes with a comprehensive list of 25 self-help options so that you can regulate your feelings better. Should you wish to connect with others, it boasts a social cloud feature where you can confide anonymously with other users. SAM is available for free on both iOS and Android devices.
Alternatively, if you are into gaming, something like SPARX (Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor) may be the ideal tool for you. Making the notion of seeking help less daunting, this app enables you to play a role-playing game based in a medieval fantasy world and change the way you think and behave through the decisions you make. So, not only do you get introduced to new coping strategies, but you can also practice them first in a fun, non-threatening environment. Like SAM, SPARX is available for free on both iOS and Android devices.
5. Support Networks
As the saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved,” and building your connections and cultivating friends whom you can rely on in times of need will go a long way towards maintaining your mental wellness. This is why it may be extremely beneficial for you to engage yourself with your local community. You can sign up for classes at the community center nearest your house, join local festivals, or even volunteer to help the less privileged residents in your community. It may be nerve-wracking to take the first step, but there are many Japanese people who are eager to befriend foreigners, so it can be incredibly rewarding to break the ice and establish friendships with them.
As you steadily build your web of connections, you will most likely get more chances to interact with other people and improve your Japanese. Coupled with an increased sense of belonging to your community, you can also gain more confidence to communicate in Japanese. All this may enable you to feel that you are in greater control of your situation, which can buffer against any intrusive thoughts and feelings.
More often than not, life throws us curveballs that throw us off balance. This is especially true when you are living in a foreign country and have to deal with many unexpected occurrences with a language and culture that may not be native to you. In the event that you find yourself falling a bit, we hope you have the courage to seek help through at least one of the above five suggested ways. No man is an island, so don’t go through your dark patches alone, when there are many kind people out there who would love to lend you a helping hand.
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Title image credit: fizkes / Shutterstock.com
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.