Kaleidoscope of the Heart: A lesson in occupational health
There is a field of medicine called occupational health, which involves protecting the health of people working in companies and organizations. Recently I made up my mind to take part in a one-week intensive summer course at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health.
The program included statistics, ergonomics and training involving electrocardiograms and other issues that I'm not too good with, so I felt relieved when the topic of mental health came up. Saying I'm relieved with talk about depression may sound strange, but being a psychiatrist, I guess that's where I fit in.
In a lecture by Jun Nakamura of the university's Department of Psychiatry, one particular phrase that struck me was: "Psychiatric health in modern Japan is an economic issue." In other words, the "emotional problems" that are in the spotlight in present-day Japan are intertwined with economic issues and changes in social structure at some point along the line.
It's true that there is a lot of stress in companies today, with harsh personnel evaluations, a doctrine of competitiveness, and corporate restructuring that could happen any moment. At the same time, job hunting is also becoming tougher for students and some have no option but to become part-time job hoppers or NEETs -- those not in education, employment or training. Others go from one temp job to another and end up losing both their work and their families. But since other people are busy looking out for number one, no one lends a helping hand.
In other words, people in society today can't feel at ease whether they are in an organization or not. Stress levels rise in an atmosphere of uneasiness and tension, and there is no doubt people who suffer from depression and other conditions as a result.
However, no matter how much psychiatrists call for revision of the nation's economic structure, society will never change overnight. Accordingly, there is no option but to handle the situation with preventive measures within the community and companies, and with treatment in consultation rooms.
Professor Nakamura says that when someone in an organization takes leave due to depression or some other reason, he wants the person and those around that person to find significance in the event upon their return to work. In one cited example, when a worker succumbed to depression, the person's department looked back on its approach to work, and decreased overtime and provided more opportunities for communication. The person who had fallen ill also made an effort to increase family time. If such an approach can be adopted, then it should be possible for the person to say, "It was good that I had depression."
I had secretly thought that if occupational health was really interesting, then I might change jobs, but what I learned from taking part in the course was that it was good I became a psychiatrist. I will now aim to become a doctor whose patients can think, "I got ill but there were some good things about that." (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: A lesson in occupational health - The Mainichi Daily News