Expats in Japan advised to take coronavirus stress seriously

Published:  28 May at 6 PM
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For expats in Japan worried about infection, it’s important to remember that mental health matters.

Expats in general are used to facing up to unpleasant surprises and are able to cope, but very few are immune to the stress of having their lives turned upside down by a worldwide health crisis. The Japanese people still carry the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011 in their minds, but the impact of both disasters was limited when compared with the pandemic, its deaths and its looming economic fall-out.

As a result and however effective any country’s anti-coronavirus measures are, it’s no surprise that mental health issues are now prevalent in Japan as well as across the world. The Asian state’s suicide hotlines are experiencing a surge in calls from citizens and expats alike, all of whom are expressing concern about financial as well as health-related matters. These essential hotlines may be inaccessible to expats due to the language barrier, but Japan’s international community is a focus for professionals counselling in English and other Western languages.

Director of Lifeline Vicckie Skorji told local media the vast majority of expats are experiencing traumatic stress response due to the disaster and its long-term effects, saying adjustment to the unknown sends people into a stress response made worse by endless media reports of deaths and high numbers of infections. This stress is exacerbated by working at home, relationships, the threat of losing jobs or not being able to pay bills, managing children during a lockdown and the possibility of forced repatriation.

Unfortunately, those already suffering from mental health issues are simply becoming overwhelmed. Quarantine and the inability to travel as also major stressors, as is the lack of refreshing, uninterrupted sleep, with burnout the end result. Keeping a solid routine and getting enough sleep is essential for cooping with ongoing stress, and expat couples should find time to work out a balance between childrens’ schooling and work-related time.
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