Listening to the Community: Grassroots Mental Healthcare in Local Communities:
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Listening to the Community: Grassroots Mental Healthcare in Local Communities
Project duration: 2017-ongoing
Contemporary Japan is facing intensifying demographic challenges including a rapidly graying society and a shrinking population. Together with other socioeconomic factors including rural depopulation, continued urbanization, and changing family forms and lifestyles, Japanese society is confronting a range of new social issues. Social isolation and loneliness, so-called “lonely deaths” (kodokushi), and related social and psychological ailments among individuals living alone and the elderly in particular have become major concerns. While various state-sponsored social services have begun addressing these issues, the most innovative developments have been in the so-called “third sector” of NPOs and NGOs.
Against this backdrop, this research project employs ethnographic fieldwork and anthropological analysis to examine the various forms of psychosocial care – so-called “care for the heart” – being provided by citizen’s groups and volunteer associations in communities across Japan. Specifically, it focuses on the kinds of pioneering social and psychological care services offered through locally-based “self-reliance support” activities, such as “active listening volunteers” and “friendship salons,” in order to analyze what sorts of care services are needed; their effects on participants; and the relationship of such care practices with global mental healthcare trends and regional social and psychological conditions. Ultimately, the project aims to combine comparative analysis of various communities throughout Japan in order to better understand the challenges and possibilities of community-based mental healthcare in Japan and other societies facing similar challenges.