Mental Health Crisis Among the Overseas Nepalese’s Families in Japan (Synopsis of study based on Nepalese’s suicide cases in Japan)

Mental Health Crisis Among the Overseas Nepalese’s Families in Japan

(Synopsis of study based on Nepalese’s suicide cases in Japan)


                                                                                                               Bijay Gyawali

There were 1.98 million foreign residents in Japan as of March 31, accounting for 1.54 percent of the population, with 84.28 percent of them between the ages of 15 and 64, according to the latest government figures. The foreign population of 1,980,200 consisted of 894,719 males, or 45.18 percent, and 1,085,481 females, or 54.82 percent. By age bracket, elderly people, defined as those 65 or older, constituted 6.77 percent of the total, compared with 24.4 percent for Japanese. Those between 15 and 64, who play an important role in the workforce, comprised 84.28 percent, significantly higher than the 62.47 percent for Japanese. The child population, up to 14 years old, was 8.96 percent, lower than 13.13 percent among Japanese. A whopping 70.55 percent live in the three biggest metropolitan areas.

Depression, loneliness, stress, and chronic disease are some of the reasons why people commit suicide in Japan, and there are similar to the reasons for suicide in the other countries too. Often people in other cultures don’t understand why so many people commit suicide in Japan. The Japanese care about harmony in relationships within the society, senses of loyalty, obligation, shame, unity, and responsibility, and these are related to hidden factors why people are committing suicide in Japan. These culturally related unconscious factors are very important in understanding suicide in Japan as these factors influence the people’s behavior.


As a clinical psychologist, and student in Japan, I have research interest in suicide prevention. In this connection, I have been monitoring the Nepalese suicide rate in Japan from last year. The result has been highly alarming. In a way it has been completely shocking for me.

In the year 2011 and by March 2013, seven Nepalese national committed suicide in Japan. Among the suicidal cases, six were working in Japan with working visa (Cook visa) and one was student who committed suicide in March.


Table 1: suicide in japan 2011/2013 march

Case number


Visa status

Duration in Japan

Family status



Skill visa





Skill visa










Skill visa





Skill visa















Living in a foreign country, one can magnify the normal stresses of life at home and work place. Japan has one of the busiest and expensive life styles. Mostly the common workers who come here are unable to adapt the ongoing life styles. Most of them have their own private problems like separation with family member, language problem, economical problem etc. The mental health consultation is not reachable for common overseas workers in Japan. There are few centers offering the mental health services and they are not affordable for them. Most of the place, counseling is not included in insurance services. They have also language problem for consultation with specialist. Lack of knowledge about mental health is also one of the big problems to increasing suicide in overseas worker.

International students face not only the same life events and stressors as other student’s events and stressors, which can have an impact upon their mental health but they also face additional pressures, all without the usual support structures of family, friends and home. They may experience a sense of loss, in the wider sense of native language; customs and security, of the sense of self even due to being in a foreign culture. Students may respond to the difficulties of transition in a variety of ways: some, for example, may manifest their distress physically (through sleep difficulties, headaches, stomach problems etc.); others may become depressed and/or anxious, or develop a panic disorder or an eating disorder. Students who are less resilient to adversity, change and loss prior to leaving their home countries may tend to experience greater difficulty in adjusting to life and study abroad.

The transition from one academic system to another can be unexpectedly confusing and can lead to high levels of anxiety, as well as to overwork and isolation. Students may be reluctant to discuss such difficulties with academic staff, for fear of appearing weak. Study skills and language support providers may be the first to identify students who are experiencing difficulty.


It has been urgent to take following steps in order to reduce mental health problems among the overseas workers and student’s family in Japan,

  1. There should be mental health consultation service at university for students and mental health support from national level organization like hello works in their own language.
  2. There should be free mental health service in national level organization like city office.
  3. There should be sufficient information about possible mental health issues during overseas life duration and hotline service in their own language.
  4. There should be regular monitoring and sufficient research on overseas workers and students.
  5. There is need to clarify the basic salary of cook in restaurant which seems to be very important. Freud by restaurants owners is to be reduced by collaboration with embassy and Nepal government.

6. There should be regular monitoring of language institute and technical school regarding student’s problems


 (Bijay Gyawali is a clinical psychologist and acupuncturist from Nepal. He completed his master of clinical psychology studies at the International University of Health and Welfare in Tokyo (Japan). Now he is doing his doctorate research in Japan on Post Conflict Mental Health Impacts of Civil War. He is actively involved in post conflicts mental health and suicide prevention issues. He is also founder of Madhusthali Foundation, which provides scholarship to mentally and physically challenge student in post conflict remote area of Nepal. Contact:



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