Survivor shares story to save others as Japan suicides drop
TOKYO: It’s not that he wanted to die. Rather, Kazuo Sawato says, he cannot bear his life anymore.
The 31-year-old Japanese office worker ran to the edge of a roof and jumped.
“I just wanted to free myself from all the suffering,” he said in an interview, 12 years after that August afternoon in 2005.
“I felt as if I was getting endless barrages of punches or gasping for air every second with my face being pushed into the water. “I just couldn’t take it anymore.” He landed on his legs, and initially regretted surviving.
Now 42, Kazuo said he was glad to be alive and wanted to share his journey back to the world of the living with those who struggle under societal pressure that made Japan one of the world’s most suicideprone societies.
Suicide in Japan surged in 1998, a year after a major brokerage went bankrupt, triggering an economic crisis.
Only in 2010 did the number of suicides start coming down, following a series of preventive measures started by the government in 2006.
Kazuo felt pressured to enter a top university and join the officeworking elite. He did not miss a single day of work for three years, developing depression from overworking.
He took sick leave for four months after his marriage fell apart, but returned to work too early, retreating to another sick leave that shattered his selfconfidence.
“I felt worthless, even less than trash. Gradually, I was caught up in a desire to stop living,” he said.
Kazuo started studying suicide methods. He walked at the edge of a station platform and imagined jumping in front of a train. He tried to strangle himself with a necktie. He researched apartment buildings ahead of his jump in 2005.
The suicidal thoughts did not vanish easily. His encounter with two roommates reminded him that he was not alone. Perhaps it was okay to slow down and take a break, he thought.
In two years he developed ulcerative colitis, requiring the removal of his colon and a threemonth hospital stay. It was a setback, but his body helped him overcome his renewed depression.
About six months after the operation, his small intestine began to function as the colon.
“I kept thinking about death, but my body was trying to live, it wanted to live,” he said.
Now, Kazuo is off anti-depression medication. He wanted to let his younger peers know that they were not alone.
He said: “If you want to die, it’s okay to say so. When I said I wanted to die, what I meant was life was too painful.
“Deep down in my heart, I wanted to live, and I’m sure that’s true of everyone.” AP