Past Issues

What is Happening in the Mental Health System in Japan: Some Observations

Naotaka Shinfuku

In the past three decades, there have been a major shift in psychiatry and mental
health services in Japan. They are a shift from hospital-centered services to
community-based services, an increase in number of co-professional mental health
manpower especially in the categories psychiatric social workers, a development
of national mental health policies, paying more attention to human rights of persons
with mentally ill, an increase in interchanges from Japanese Society of Psychiatry
and Neurology with international psychiatric colleagues since 2002, etc.
The introduction of new psychotropic drugs has contributed for community
based psychiatry to become the main stream of services. The path has been somewhat
different in Japan. In addition, Japan has built an enormous number of privately
owned psychiatric hospitals since late 1960s. Japan at present owns the
biggest number of psychiatric beds in the world. The bed number in South Korea
has also rapidly been increased in recent years. They are often called as “Asian exception
in psychiatry.” Finally, I shall discuss some important improvement in the
context of those described changes in Japanese psychiatry.
Key Word Japan, mental health services, hospital-based psychiatric care, national mental health policy
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