Sur­vivor shares story to save oth­ers as Ja­pan sui­cides drop

New Straits Times - - World -

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

Kazuo Sawato

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