The Low Down on Mental Health in Tokyo
Welcome back to another annual low-down. This one is not about sexual health, but an equally important type of health--mental. If you’ve had prior counseling, psychiatry, therapy, medication, etc.--before coming to Tokyo, then you are probably familiar with the formalities (i.e. differences in types of treatment, diagnoses, and more). I’m not going to go into giving you a diagnosis like I’m one of the scientists in Netflix’s Maniac, but I would like to introduce you to Japan’s version of the aforementioned formalities. Because it’s drastically different here than what you may be used to in the US or elsewhere.
Firstly, some background info on how Japan deals with mental health. Mental health is a complicated and convoluted medical issue to deal with in Japan. I could end here but that is not the optimistic thing to do! Where there is a gaijin community and doctors with foreign degrees there is a way! Contrary to my last piece on sexual health that listed whether or not clinics took NHI, this piece will unfortunately lack that bit. But, psychiatric services are covered by Japanese Health Insurance. Psychiatrists typically work in hospitals or practice in local clinics. They can help diagnose and prescribe medications for depression, insomnia, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, etc. Psychosomatic doctors (those who treat physical problems caused by psychological stress) and the medicine they prescribe are also covered by NHI. They work out of local clinics, often in the same office as internal medicine. Counselling services provided by clinical psychologists, however, are not covered by Japanese Health Insurance. They tend to work out of hospitals, mental-health specialized clinics, and counselling centers. Their costs vary, generally 5,000 yen to 10,000 yen or more for 50 min. Usually clinics/private practices follow the same flow system where you inquire, have an intake session (consultation), they make a recommendation for treatment/sessions, and you follow up on what was decided between you and your doctor.
As students at TUJ we have quite the advantage over the average foreigner living in Japan. This is due to our counseling services, DRS options, and hotlines/external resources provided by TUJ counseling. You pay tuition here so take advantage of these free resources! They can be extremely helpful if you are facing pre-existing mental health issues, or facing the weight of college and life in Japan at any point on the spectrum.
Also do not feel discouraged about Japan’s lack of mental health resources, or lack of mental health awareness. It sucks and is something that needs better attention and reforms (we all hear about office worker suicides and stress-drinking as solutions to life’s stresses). TUJ and the foreign community can help you out and recognize whatever health issue you may be going through. You have options and assistance.
Now onto breaking up these options and assistance:
Police (directly taken from the Sexual Assault Assistance page)
“TUJ has no campus police. In case of an emergency, you can call 110 for police and 119 for firefighters or ambulance. If you wish to report a sexual assault or other crime to the Japanese national police, or simply discuss matters, you can call the Japanese national hotline for sex crime survivors on any phone by dialing #8103. In the event of a sex crime, the police encourage you to contact a nearby police station (Mita police station: 03-3454-0110). It is important to preserve evidence when reporting a sexual assault. If possible, do not shower or wash your clothing following a sexual assault, as that may aid in the investigation.”
Hospitals with experience in handling reports of sexual violence:
St. Luke’s International (takes NHI, speaks English, has 24hr ER services)
Also offer mental health services: “Services include psychiatric evaluation, brief counseling and prescription. We assist you deal with personal issues and life events by individual counseling service (45 minutes)”
9:00-23:00 Everyday (online chat on Saturday and Sunday)
Also face-to-face sessions are available for 20,000 yen/50 min.
Sexual Assault Relief Center Tokyo
24/7 (English by appointment)
What does TUJ offer?
We have counselors! Located on 3F in Mita hall are five experienced counselors that offer a variety of counseling services. It doesn’t have to be in regards to a serious mental health issue. You can get counseling on stress management, studying, life planning, anxiety, depression, and more. The counselors can also help in providing referrals to external resources as needed. All information is kept confidential.
They are available Monday-Friday; 10:00-17:00 by appointment. (03-5441-9889 or 03-5441-9800, extension 889)
If you have been a follower of UPRIZINE since our start, you’ll know that this resource is new and long overdue. You’ve probably seen the fliers with internal and external assistance options posted in every toilet. There’s also loose-leaf definitions of sexual violence on most campus desks. Their webpage pretty much lists everything.
Nicole Despres is now TUJ’s Deputy Title IX coordinator and if you (or a friend) need or want to report she is the person you can go to on guidance, support, and assistance. However, you can also report to any TUJ staff but they will have to inform Nicole Despres of this.
Information on bringing medicine from overseas
You’ll need to bring this completed form (kouseikyoku) if you plan on bringing your psychotropic medications into Japan
This technically goes for all medication you wish to bring in (if you read my last piece, birth control counts). However, in my experience and the experience of a number of people I know, these forms are disregarded by customs and your medications often goes unchecked. Up to you to take the risk, but note it is not something we at UPRIZINE encourage or recommend.
Brief lowdown on depression
Therapists/Psychiatrists in Tokyo that speak English (not all private practice)
A major resource to consult for finding a therapist is IMHPJ (International Mental Health Professionals Japan). You can search by dropdown, location, reason, specific therapists, etc. They do a great job breaking down therapists based on education, specialty, level of experience, gender, fee, language and culture, and location. Be sure to read their guide for how to search for a therapist as it provides info on their ethics code and therapists’ credentials.
Japan Healthcare Info (JHI)
An NPO that helps find English-speaking doctors in Japan. They have mental health services too, where you can pay them to inquire for you or set up appointments if you cannot do so alone.
Offers psychiatry, psychotherapy, and counseling. The doctors here speak English and the lead psychiatrist is Dr. Andrew Kissane (this location in Ginza is a private practice but he also holds a psychiatry clinic at the American Clinic Tokyo, with a psychology consultation costing 16,000 yen). When I was on anti-anxiety medication at one point in Tokyo, my US psychiatrist and I contacted Dr. Kissane and he offered to monitor me while I was on medication. He said he could also prescribe it (although the cost was high). I’ve heard good things from friends and online about Dr. Kissane. His prices at both clinics are upwards of 10,000 yen/50min, depending on the services you want.
This clinic located in Shimokitazawa has doctors who are all licensed. They offer other languages besides English for counseling too, with the cost being a flexible 10,000 yen/50min. Skype counseling also an option.
Offers counselling/psychotherapy, and can prescribe psychiatric referrals for medication. Four doctors work at this Shibuya clinic and their prices vary.
Offers personal counseling, transition counseling, crisis intervention, and self-awareness training services. Head psychologist is Dr. Ron Fast, with one session costing 17,000 yen/50min. He is also a TUJ counselor who you can have sessions with at the counseling center. Tokyo Well-Being also has information on psychiatrists in Tokyo.
This “Doctor” deserves his own section. Dr. Doug Berger, from Meguro Counseling (his practice), is someone anyone reading this needs to stay away from. Just by googling his name you can see countless negative reviews and other warnings. When I was looking for therapy/psychiatry in Tokyo, his ad came up in Google first. After inquiring, this “doctor” non-stop called and emailed me and would not take no for an answer until I had to threaten that I’d call the police. I’ve heard from others who have had the same issues, as well as online forums where he’s done worse. He’s reportedly disrespectful and demeaning in sessions. I don’t know how he hasn’t lost his practice or been arrested, but I encourage you to stay away.
Hopefully now you have an idea of how mental health in Tokyo is. I hope you can look at this “lowdown” and be able to find the services you need, or at least see a starting point for your own research. Reddit provides some useful reviews on some of the clinics and doctors mentioned here. A great first step is inquiring to TUJ counseling services for recommendations on where to begin. Good luck, and know that support and help is always accessible.