Skipping School May be Depression
Thursday, October 7, 2004 Posted: 12:20 PM JST
Depression may explain why a large number of Japanese school children play hookey from school, reports the Daily Yomiuri today. Research data supporting this radical new view was recently presented at a conference of the Japan Association for School Mental Health.
Skipping school has always been seen as a boycot or a form of phobia. Since the 1990's, as the problem grew increasingly more serious in Japan, many experts said that students just did not want to go to school. Antipathy towards school became accepted as a normal fact of youth. It clearly showed a lack of understanding of the mechanisms that kept record large numbers of students away from classes.
Ryuji Kodama, the 56-year-old director of Nagashida no Mori Shinryo Clinic who presented the new research data runs a a school for children who regularly skip school. He places priority on nurturing children's minds. Starting in October 2001 Kodama researched 131 primary and middle school children at his clinic for a period of two years. Eighty-four showed a "tendency" toward truancy, 28 of these showed symptoms of depression.
The most obvious symptom among children suffering from depression is becoming less active. They rarely enjoy video games they used to like, soon tire of reading comics, refuse to do anything and spend long periods lying down, says the Daily Yomiuri. Kodama believes it is because they lack the energy to be active, and not because of a lack of interest. He points out that such children often show physical symptoms, such as exhaustion, waking up too early and diminished appetite. "If a child shows these symptoms not only on weekdays, but also on holidays," says Kodama, "it is likely that he or she is suffering from depression."
Last year a team of Tsukuba University surveyed primary school students in grades four to six. They found that 10 percent of the boys and 13.5 percent of the girls showed symptoms of depression.
The new research is an important step towards understanding the problem of Japan's thousands of "Hikkikomori", young children who refuse to leave their rooms and avoid any social interaction. Often for years on end. The important question to ask now is, why are so many children, and adults, suffering from depression, and what can be done to prevent this from happening.
Keywords: national_news education medical psychology
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