In June 2006, a 19-year old boy set fire to his home in Nara, killing his mother and two siblings almost instantly. It was horrifying. What happened next is pretty bad too. The court appointed a psychiatrist, Morimitsu Sakihama, to conduct psychiatric tests on the boy. Sakihama did as told, and then he leaked his assessment and confidential information the boy gave him to a journalist. “I did it to benefit the boy” was his lame excuse. The journalist, a woman named Atsuko Kusanagi, used the information to write a book about the boy titled I Decided to Kill my Dad.
Sakihama was convicted to four months in prison for violating the privacy of his patient yesterday, but I think the larger problem here is that news like this creates an even deeper mistrust of psychologists and psychiatrists than there already is. Mental health care in Japan is scant, and most doctors are quick to prescribe meds without even taking the idea of seeing a shrink into consideration. Problems like hikikomori and suicide arise in large part because these people see no escape. And then some government-entrusted psychiatrist dude comes along and spills his guts to a reporter… not a very good thing for mental health care’s rap in an already skeptical society.