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Kaleidoscope of the heart: How can we help struggling young people?

Rika Kayama

The remains of eight women and one man were recently found in an apartment in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture. It is believed that among the victims were those shouldering suicidal thoughts looking for someone to die with them, accepting the suspect's invitation online to help them follow through with their wishes.

    But where did these victims come from? According to National Police Agency statistics, there are over 80,000 people who go missing nationwide each year, and 40 percent of them are in their 20s or younger.

    In all likelihood, there are probably some among them that disappeared because they felt living was tiring and they had no place to go. When figuring in those on the brink, these young people who struggle with life could possibly number in the hundreds of thousands to millions.

    Even with that being said, these people probably have times when they wish someone would understand their struggles and loneliness. Because we live in the age of the internet, it's simple to search for people who feel the same way. When someone then says, "I understand your feelings. There is nothing wrong with you," one may open up right away.

    Of course, the biggest issue is that there are people who try to abuse the loneliness felt by these young people. However, in the same breath, we must not forget to question why young people are driven to such lengths by negative feelings.

    From time to time, young people who have lost the will to live come to my consultation room. These people arrived at my practice because they thought, "I need someone to help me," but there are many more who are unable to take even this step, and slip away or try to end their lives. However, I'm repeating myself now, but this doesn't mean that these people have completely given up on everything, but instead are searching the net looking for someone, somewhere who might understand their struggles.

    For those young individuals, there are also people operating a kind of "internet rescue organization." Still, these safe havens are too few in number, and there are limits to what individuals or a group can accomplish. Even then, will the government or school be able to gain the trust of those young people by advertising that they "will answer young people's worries?"

    How can we construct a system that can be a safe haven in which many young people can contact and be sure that they will be understood and helped? Many people have been mulling over this problem for a long time, but we have yet to arrive at an answer. Regardless, we have no choice but to keep thinking about a solution. In order to prevent another incident like that in Kanagawa, we cannot afford to stop contemplating this matter. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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