Japan’s radical alternative to psychiatric diagnosis

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From Aeon: “In Japan, a radical approach called tōjisha-kenkyū has emerged to challenge the prescriptive narratives that dominate mainstream psychiatry. In tōjisha-kenkyū, which roughly translates as ‘the science of the self’ or ‘self-supported research’, people with disabilities and/or mental illness learn to study their own experiences. During the past few decades, this approach has grown from a grassroots movement created by people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses in a small Hokkaido fishing town, to a revolutionary method for moving beyond psychiatry – a method that is being embraced across the strata of Japan’s rapidly ageing society.

. . . Tōjisha-kenkyū is based on a simple idea. Humans have long shared their troubles so that others can empathise and offer wisdom about how to solve problems. Yet the experience of mental illness is often accompanied by an absence of collective sharing and problem-solving. Mental health issues are treated like shameful secrets that must be hidden, remain unspoken, and dealt with in private. This creates confused and lonely people, who can only be ‘saved’ by the top-down knowledge of expert psychiatrists. Tōjisha-kenkyū simply encourages people to ‘study’ their own problems, and to investigate patterns and solutions in the writing and testimonies of fellow tōjisha.”

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