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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Kyoto Animation fans should protect themselves from trauma

Rika Kayama

A deadly fire at a Kyoto Animation studio in western Japan on July 18 claimed the lives of 34 people in what was described as an arson attack. It was a horrific ordeal for the victims.

On the night of the incident, my mother, who lives far away from me, called and asked, "I'm too afraid to look at the news. Should I?" I answered, "Mom, you don't need to see it."

Images and videos of disasters and other incidents can shock viewers. Especially in this age, graphic videos are taken on peoples' smartphones, and those clips sometimes make their way onto the news on TV.

Such images are believed to have a strong impact especially on people including children and the elderly. My mother is of old age, lives alone and is getting physically weak. If she sees a video showing smoke coming out from the building, she might become too scared to sleep for days.

Furthermore, as well as family and friends of the employees, fans of works produced by Kyoto Animation have been left emotionally devastated. I even saw on the news a fan crying as they were being interviewed, who stated, "I learned the meaning of life from their work. It's such a shame." Such people may suffer from emotional damage, or in other words, trauma.

Several experts have said online that some people need courage to let go of information, and I completely agree with them. Fans, out of their love for the anime produced by the company, may feel obliged to keep up with the latest news and collect information on the case. But to protect yourself from the shock, even if only slightly, you must remember to stop looking at your smartphone and turn off your TV in order to distance yourself from the tragedy to rest your mind and body.

By doing so, you are not running away from the incident or disrespecting the victims in any way. Those who wish to continue to cherish the quality works produced by Kyoto Animation need to first give themselves a break and heal their emotional pain.

Just three years ago, a former employee of a care facility for those with disabilities in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, killed 19 people with disabilities. This time, the lives of 34 people were lost. It's very frightening and saddening to imagine that there are people out there who do not care at all what happens to others.

While I mourn the death of the victims of this latest tragedy and wish that the bereaved families feel at least some comfort, I'm thinking about what I can do so that every individual can feel glad to be alive and at the same time respect other peoples' lives. So far, I'm yet to find an answer.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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