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2013年9月26日 (木)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「きょうだい」の義務とは /東京

September 15, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Considering our responsibility to our siblings
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「きょうだい」の義務とは /東京

I have recently been seeing an increasing number of patients in my office for consultations regarding their siblings who are suffering from social withdrawal, or 'hikikomori.'

Here is one concrete case to consider.

A woman in her 40s came to see me regarding her brother, three years older than her, who had long been living in social isolation at their childhood home. Their parents had been taking care of him, but their father had passed away two years prior, and their mother was due to be institutionalized after being diagnosed with dementia.

"My mother's pension payments are going toward her institutionalization fees, and I myself have absolutely no spare time or money, since I am already taking care of both my own children and my husband's parents," the woman explained. "I am going to bring my brother here to see you, so please give him medication if he is ill, and do something so that he is able to work again."

While this is actually a hypothetical case, I do in fact see numerous clients who come to me with this sort of dilemma. Sometimes, my patients have fallen into depression after a sibling came to them and announced, "Now, it's your turn to take care of me."

Legally speaking, there does exist an obligation to provide support to one's family members. Consequently, it is not possible to simply turn a blind eye when one's parents or siblings have fallen on hard times.

That said, however, such obligations are more lax in the case of siblings. The law states that one is "required to provide support (to one's siblings) to the extent that it does not require making sacrifices within your own life."

Rather than giving assistance at any cost, then, the law states that such support is to be provided to siblings only to the extent that one is able to do so comfortably.

In the hypothetical case above, then, the woman would not be legally required to take care of her 'hikikomori' elder brother.

The situation, however, is more complicated than this.

We can imagine, for example, that, if the woman's brother in the above case made an inquiry to social welfare representatives about receiving assistance, they would ask him whether he had any family members who could support him. We can imagine, moreover, that the brother himself would also contact his sister numerous times to ask for help, and that their institutionalized mother would say something like, "I'm really sorry to ask you this, but please take care of him."

Whether it's legally or emotionally speaking, then, breaking one's family ties is not so easily accomplished.

The question then remains: Should one endeavor to help out one's siblings, even if it requires inviting hardship into one's own life? This would likely result in feelings of resentment toward one's siblings for being unable to support themselves -- and also toward one's parents for leaving one in this situation following their deaths. Such a situation, in fact, would mean that one's remaining years would be so difficult as to actually say that the person in question was not even living life at all.

Although it is certainly not impossible for people in their 40s or 50s who have been living in social isolation while depending upon their parents to go to a clinic or other consultation-type facility, and work to achieve independence -- thereby making a comeback -- this would unfortunately be the exception rather than the rule.

The issue of who will take care of one's 'hikikomori' siblings following the death of their parents, therefore, constitutes a serious social problem that must be addressed.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2013年09月10日 地方版


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