Four tips for women’s mental health

Dr. Yuko Kawanishi sheds light on the mental health crisis in Japan on Breaking Glass

We headed to Tokyo this week to have a timely discussion on the mental health of Japanese women during the pandemic. In 2020 alone, nearly 7,000 women took their own lives, putting the country at one of the highest suicide rates in the world. We went looking for a local expert to understand why. Dr. Yuko Kawanishi is a sociologist based in Tokyo who specializes in mental health, gender and family relations, and contemporary Japanese social issues. Dr. Yuko reflected on the unique expectations that Japanese culture places on women, how some of those gender dynamics were exacerbated by the pandemic, and what she wishes for more women in her country. In some ways, Japanese women experienced similar burdens to women around the world during COVID – disproportionate job loss and remote work balanced with greater household burdens. But in other ways, Japan’s culture of shame and mental health stigma combined to have especially devastating effects on women. As the pandemic presses on, Dr. Yuko wants to make sure every woman remembers the following four things with regards to her mental health:  

  1. Nothing lasts forever – No matter how low you may feel or how dire your circumstances are, Dr. Yuko reminded us that everything changes. This season of life will not last forever.
  2. It is courageous to ask for help – It is actually quite commendable to ask for help, it is brave to acknowledge that you need support to weather these trying times.
  3. There are always resources available – From hotlines to health professionals, there are resources in nearly every community to help manage your own mental health. 
  4. People want to help – It is human nature to want to help each other. When you take the step to ask for help, you will find people in your personal and professional networks who are eager to help you through this season.

During the past year, in the midst of a global pandemic, the mental health of men and women has suffered greatly. The combination of personal and professional pressure, social isolation, and constant threats to our physical health drove mental healthcare to a forefront of many communities’ concerns. If you feel like you could use mental health support but are not sure how to find it during this disconnected time, try looking into some of the following resources: , , or reach out to your usual healthcare provider for recommendations. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

Listen to Dr. Yuko on Breaking Glass