[ SOCIAL AND PASTORAL BULLETIN No. 139 / July. 20 .2007 ]
Melancholy is nowadays the main major mental disease. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Labor and Welfare in 2002, about 700,000 patients are receiving mental treatment. This is 1.6 times the number of patients since 1999, when there were about 440,000. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that between 3.6 and 6 million people in Japan, or 3 and 5 per cent of its population, are potential mental patients and most probably one out of four persons in Japan have suffered from mental depression at least once in their lives. In fact, we may say that melancholy is a national disease.
Also in our discussions when we were preparing the booklet we sent together with the April Bulletin on mental issues, melancholy came out as a theme worthy of consideration, but we did not select it as an independent one. The reason could be that the editorial members of the booklet were not much involved in listening to the experiences of mental patients or that they were not part of self-reliance-groups active in those issues. Nevertheless, mental depression is one major cause of suicides that cannot be put aside and, when I was thinking about studying this issue a companion of our center recommended me the book I reviewed here.
The author is a lady illustrator in her thirties. Suddenly, one day, her husband a 'super- white-collar worker' told her that he wanted to die. It is a comic book that depicts the husband's fight against his mental depression for one year and a half. There are 4 chapters, (1) Beginning of the disease and stopping work (2) Heavy depression period (3) Recuperation (4) Social rehabilitation and in each chapter there are sets of 10 cartoons spread in double pages. For instance, the following are some of the themes: "stop work," "efficacious medicines," "aftershocks," "teaching leisurely," "have a good time," "is it a lazy disease?", "a disease without excuses," "looking at one's past," "change yourself" and "accept yourself as you are," etc. Each one of the themes is rather heavy but the author has managed to present melancholy with cute and wonderful illustrations and with humorous style has produced a curious literary work to learn by laughing.
A real super performance in the book is the dialogue with the husband. The author had been accustomed to depend totally on her husband who was not only a super salaried man but also very dedicated to family affairs. But, after he was hit by mental distress she attended him and was able to change her backward-looking attitude into a cheerful constructive one. Her husband's distress became a fortune to her. Having such a wife is easy to understand that the husband was able to overcome his melancholy.
Of course, his recovery did not mean that he could work the same way as before. To her eyes the husband appeared somehow different, a person more approachable than before. In other words, the fact that he had become mentally distressed was, most probably, unavoidable and the author believes that when he felt into melancholy could, for the first time, confront his own weakness and thus it was not worthless. If I were in her position I am not sure whether I could say the same, but I wish I could accept mental distress in the same manner.
Till recently I have thought that I was a person unrelated to such disease, but sometimes, due to a busy schedule and pressures, I experience physical dullness when I come to work on Monday mornings. Then, for the first time, I feel inside myself that anybody can fall into melancholy. It has been a personal blessing to be able to find such a book. The following sentences of the author gave me lots of encouragement, "Melancholy is a summer vacation for human life. Take a good rest. Resting time is a valuable opportunity to confront oneself."
Wandering right and left with the melancholic husband, suffering and getting angry together, enjoying that as well is the image the author provides in this book. The catchword "Comics of an Impressive True Love" is real. Don't miss it.

(Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
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