September’s Field Report (Japan)

Over the past two months, SHINE Humanity, together with its field partners, Kokoro Wellness Network(KWN) and Primary Care Action Team (PCAT) in Ishinomaki, Japan, have been conducting a Mental Health Project for victims of the Japan Tsunami 2011. It has been six months since the Tsunami struck the coast of Japan and caused widespread destruction in places like Ishinomaki. Our services have been directed at those displaced by the tsunami and currently living in shelters and temporary housing.

Our initial goals were to provide mental health services to victims and first responders of the Tsunami in Ishinomaki. We hoped to be able to directly address and treat post-traumatic stress (as evidenced by fatigue, depression and other psycho-somatic symptoms). The team had intended to use a public education campaign and direct counselling to accomplish these goals.

The Japanese culture sees the expression of stress or grief as a sign of weaknesses and the village where we are based is not used to hosting foreigners. As a result, we have introduced counseling techniques which are more culturally appropriate (music, art, massage, etc.) and we have incorporated case work(we connect clients to the resources they need) as a way of reaching the population where they are. For many, they are still physically in  and in the process of rebuilding their lives, homes and livelihoods; it will be some time before they can start processing the trauma they have faced.

To address physical dislocation of the target community, the ground teams has sought permission to conduct workshops and group sessions in a number of cafes established in recently as temporary housing complexes.

We have made several training videos available on YouTube at no cost.  We will also try to hand out physical flyers and brochures that alert people to the symptoms and treatment for PTSD-related illnesses. The team is still exploring the possibility of distributing DVDs with public service messages to be played in locations where communities gather.

The target population remains the residents and first responders in Ishinomaki who were impacted by the Tsunami.

  • A total of 630 people were served in the first five weeks, including 205 males, 418 females, 7 children and 11 families.

As a result of the activities improvements can been seen gradually. Target groups such as the nurses are opening up slowly and the communication with them is much smoother now. The group activities are successful as participants seem to enjoy them a lot!  The mental health professionals have adopted the role of reducing anxiety and frustration around transition and to helping dislocated families  prepare for transition.

To extend services, we are currently searching for additional local, Japanese partners on the ground, if you or an organization you know are interested, kindly contact us at info@shinehumanity.org.

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