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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Helping Hikikomori

Many people had asked me if I have a solution for hikikomori? I honestly do not know.

Causes and effects to hikikomori could be individual, yet an epidemiological evidence that would tell us the association of a causal factor to the behavior and the implication to the larger proportion of hikikomori could be found if we could employed the correct research method including adequate and appropriate sample to access. Then we can work on prevention and intervention and educate the public so that they know how to get involve or how to take care of themselves. If I try to satisfy you by telling you what I think hikikomori is without further epidemiological efforts are made (this is something that we are working on!) you will probably be satisfied because I am giving you a solution, or a suggestion that you can work on. But shouldn't you be careful in interpreting the information which is given to you, for it is subject to extreme bias for the cases that I share with you might not represent the hikikomori in large and limited to a certain individuals' experiences. It has no value to you unless the hikikomori you serve fall into the same category of the hikikomori that I serve. Forcing a theory is the least thing that I would like to do. Do you get what I mean?

However there are a certain issues that I can address here at present time.

Question: If there are different types of Hikikomori and different ways of helping Hikikomori to improve their conditions?
Answer: Yes, there are different types of Hikikomori. Both the sufferers and experts have several attempts in classifying themselves into different types or level (see my earlier work in discussion 4.3). However we should be aware that the word Hikikomori have often been misused, where there were even occasions where hikikomori was confused with soshoku-dansei 草食男性. As for ways to help hikikomori to improve their conditions, there is no one model approach that had been proven to have a significant success rate. Most of the reported "successful" cases or treatments were heavily biased and depending on what the experts said rather than true evidence. But certainly there are different ways to help different level of hikikomori to improve their condition, which the workers/volunteers need to experiment at present.

Question: "How ordinary people can contribute to Hikikomori people and their families? (ie. regular church members but not full-time workers)
Answer: This opinion is strictly personal perspective which do not represent any part of the research. There are two issues here, hikikomori him/herself and the family. Many people had neglected the sorrow and guilt of the family members as one shut him/herself in. Not seeing the person to face nor having a conversation with the person although you live under the same roof, it install a sense of frustration and guilt to the family members. Most of the time, the family members would have no idea of what they could do or what they should do. Some took aggressive approaches to drag them out from their bedrooms and force them to seek psychiatric treatment or psychology counseling session; some respect the individual decision and took it quietly; some seriously blame themselves for what may happened in the past that could have caused the withdrawal syndrome etc. Most try not to invite guests to their house in order to avoid stigma or fear to agonize the hikikomori individual. Strategy 1: Be-friend with the family members, take care of their needs and find times to pray together. 2: Encourage them to open their house for visitation. 3. Have normal conversation with the family while visiting them, drop by the door of the individual to say hello if it is permissible. (Note: DO NOT CRITICIZE!) 4. Continue to do that persistently once in a month or a week. Every time say hello to the person even if you feel that you are speaking to the air. Write a note or leave some food that you cook at the door. 5. Invite him/her to have lunch/dinner with you or watch a movie with you or maybe a haircut, or maybe a cell gathering (who knows?) Christians should pray in every step that you take in this outreach! Ask the Lord to reveal to you what is the next step, and what could be done.

Perhaps what is more feasible is Helping to prevent people around you to fall into hikikomori. Causes to hikimori are varies in individuals, and most of the time there would be multiple causes and takes one event to trigger the action of self-isolation. Although we have no clue of true association of hikikomori at this moment, but there were several suggested factors which had caused hikikomori. In my previous finding, elements like 'coping difficulties' , 'unable to trust' and 'question of existence' dominate the experience of hikikomori. We could probably start to work from there. Many factors would cause such elements, such as bullying (physical or verbal); overloaded job demands; future uncertainties; no friends etc. Ordinary people are the best to pick up these signs, because they sit next to you, it is just that the ordinary people need to pick up some observation skill and be more sensitive towards facial expressions and body languages! You can talk to them, be friend them, help to share some of their work loads, install positive ideas, pray for them......(where Christians would have a great resource in positive thinking!)

Certainly there are direct ways to do something as well! For example, in the instance of bullying (which I will use Miller's comment as he responded to an interview from Mainichi Japan): Take action yourself, and also encourage your kids to do the same if they witness bullying. A simple comment like "Cut it out" or "Leave him alone" could help change the dynamic when someone is being picked on. Mind the words that we use and statements that we made about a person. Speak positively rather negatively. It does help to prevent many people in falling into depression when unpleasant circumstances appear.


Question: What can/should the church do in response?
Answer: Church should mobilize the members to reach out to hikikomori, raising prayers and awareness to erase stigma and increase social support for the family. However there is one thing that we need to keep in mind: We can increase awareness about hikikomori in pulpit talk, but we have to be aware what we say. Are we increasing stigma towards hikikomori with our speeches and choices of word, or are we helping the members to see what they really suffer and how we could reach out to them? Many churches tend to take one side of story, often experts' opinions rather than their own experiences when relating to the issue of hikikomori. Labeling 60% or 80% of the Japanese population are hikikomori simply because they are not communicating with each other could be impressive when missionaries try to raise support or understanding back home to continue their work in Japan, or raising more awareness towards the depressing needs in Japan, but this untrue remark disgrace the credibility of Christian field workers because we are indeed over exaggerating the data and not very true to our words. I would myself doubt how true is the truth that these people preach if I myself is not a believer. We have to remember real hikikomori are indeed minority in Japan although no doubts in Japan and the same in most industrialized and computer advanced countries including South Korea, people are growing numb to human interaction. And we should not neglect the cases of hikikomori in other countries though they do no receive the same level of attention in Japan.

Hope this helps! Feedback is welcomed!

Friday, April 23, 2010

What is Your Main Concern?

Question: If you can know one thing out of the hikikomori research, what would you want to know about? Or put it this way, what is your main concern about hikikomorii? I'll try to accommodate these question into my research. Contribution of ideas are welcome, and if you would like to get involve in a certain degree, please drop me a line. Thank you! Email me: yangjinhong@gmail.com

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