Osaka YMCA
International School

Finding Connection: Suicide Prevention

two students talking
Thomas Bell

Thomas Bell

Mr. Tom has been working in the mental health field for fifteen years both in schools and in the community. He is a father of two and is happily married to his also counselor wife, Ms. Amy Pothong. He enjoys reading and drinking coffee when his children let him.

Look around at the people in your life and ask yourself, do they have someone they can talk to about serious issues? Let's prevent suicide by making connections with each other.

Finding Connection: Suicide Prevention

Did you know that over 20,000 Japanese people die every year due to suicide? For the first time in eleven years this number has gone up. But unlike in previous years, men didn’t account for the main increases. Instead, the instances of women and child suicides continue to climb. At 400 in 2020, this was the highest number ever recorded in Japan. COVID-19 and the fallout around it have presented the world with unprecedented problems. It’s no mystery that mental health has been one of the top casualties.

So what does this mean for Osaka YMCA International School and our community? And, more importantly, how do we prevent our students from becoming one of these statistics?

In my experience as a school counselor, one of the first red flags I look for when working with a student is whether or not they have someone in their life that they can talk to about important issues. One person. Anyone. A friend, a family member, a teacher, a counselor. They need someone.

The reason this is so important, without getting too much into the backstory of it, is that we humans evolved as a social species. We need to feel like we belong to a group. When we don’t feel like we belong or when we feel like we’ve been rejected or abandoned, we get strong feelings of anxiety and depression. This same double-headed monster loves to come at us simultaneously and has become an epidemic worldwide. For all people, loneliness is linked to adverse health consequences such as depression, sleep disturbances, cognitive decline, and impaired immunity. As mentioned, social isolation is a major risk factor for suicide. The feeling of not belonging or not feeling connected to other people can be detrimentally powerful. Isolation and disconnection are causing an epidemic of depression and the answer is to help people feel connected. They need one person to talk to openly. They need one person to talk to and not feel judged.

So, my task for our community is this: look around at the people in your life and ask yourself, do they have someone they can talk to about serious issues? If the answer is no, or even if you don’t know what the answer is, try talking to them about it. Try to listen and be non-judgmental. Oftentimes it’s the fear of judgment from loved ones that prevents these people from opening up.

Not all of us are lucky enough to have someone to talk to or for the loved ones in our lives to be kind enough to give us this opportunity. If you or someone you know is isolated and disconnected call the TELL Lifeline at 03-5774- 0992 for some direct and free support. Or visit their website here. Have them reach out to a school counselor. It might just save a life.

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