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2013年3月12日 (火)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:ピュアすぎる引きこもり /東京

March 10, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: The innocence of shut-ins
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:ピュアすぎる引きこもり /東京

In 2011, an Osaka man in his 40s who had been a shut-in for 30 years killed his sister, who had been helping him out with his daily life, but whom he had grown to resent. Citing a lack of support in Japanese society for the man, who has Asperger's syndrome, the Osaka District Court initially handed down a 20-year prison sentence, exceeding the 16 years sought by prosecutors.

The high court recently overruled the decision, however, sentencing the man to 14 years imprisonment. In a complete turnaround, the court explained that public institutions were prepared to support the man after his release and that the lower court's sentence had been too heavy.

Let's put aside for now the issue of whether a sentence should be reduced or increased depending on whether an offender has a developmental disability or not. One woman who came to me for a consultation about her teenage son, a shut-in, looked forlorn. "A shut-in for 30 years...is that going to happen to us, too?" she asked.

Parents with children who have been shut-ins for 35 or 40 years come to me for advice. In some cases, these "children" are in their 50s and the parents are in their 80s. Quite a few among them are parents who, growing older, have finally come for their first consult after years of hoping that their children would be reintegrated into society on their own.

I also have the opportunity to meet and exchange e-mails with the "veteran" shut-ins themselves. What I find in those interactions is that they aren't as socially inept as their parents might think. Many have gained a range of information from books, television, radio and the Internet. Some write novels, while others have an exquisite sense of humor. It makes me realize their 30 years in withdrawal haven't been for naught.

The thing is, though, that their skills and knowledge do not necessarily lead directly to a profession or an income. Many jobs require the physical strength to go to the same place every day at the same time, and the savvy to get along with colleagues with whom one may have nothing in common. For those who have for years been doing only what they want in their own worlds, rush-hour train commutes and forced smiles in the workplace are meaningless and appear corrupt. In other words, these people are too pure and innocent for society.

These are people who have maintained the pure hearts of teenagers through to their 40s and 50s. Should society create opportunities for them to utilize their skills and abilities, or should we be teaching them to become more worldly? It's a question that stumps me.

Hoping that my words do not sound like hollow consolation, to the aging parents who come to me, I say, "Your son, too, has his strengths. But he's come this far without being able to make the most of them."

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2013年03月05日 地方版


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