East Japan Great Earthquake：Fukushima Sou－Sou project NO.5
“Mental Health Clinic NAGOMI” is located in the center of Soma city, Fukushima Prefecture. This clinic is managed cooperated by Médecins du Monde. “NAGOMI” is the only mental health clinic in the city. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, Department of Neuropsychiatry, The School of Medicine, Fukushima Medical University, etc. took a leading part to establish an incorporated NPO. The NPO supported and managed to open the clinic. As the clinic does not have any full-time doctor, about 10 psychiatrists throughout the nation are examining and treating patients by turns.
Through Médecins du Monde, I was assigned to the clinic and have been in charge of outpatient care almost once a month since March 2012. Until March 2013, I had been on a shift on every third Tuesday of the month, and since April,(I have been on a shift on) every fourth Saturday (of the month). I am examining about 20 patients per day on the average.
Impact of the disaster on the people is varied; some still live in the temporary housing; some came back to their hometown after moving from area to area; some are worn out from compensation negotiations; some cannot become familiar with the local people in the place they fled to for safety; and some live away from their family for job and/or child-raising reasons.
Beside the outpatient care, I am providing the aged with health consultation services and physical examinations by visiting them at the temporary housing with the staff members of “Mental Care Center NAGOMI for wide area of Soma” if I have any time to spare. This Care Center is carrying out community health activities mainly by providing outreach activities. Ladies living in the temporary housing have excellent smiles and their talks are full of humor. I am always encouraged by them.
As an awareness program, I am holding suicide preventive workshops for the welfare commissioners and the personnel of the self-governing body and enterprises who take charge of preventing suicide on the front line. Although 2 years have passed since the disaster, people may take their own lives owing to the disaster continuously. I would like to cooperate with the local staff to prevent suicide.
It was not until mid-May, 2011 which was after the disaster that I first got involved with Psychiatric treatment in Soma city. A local staff member picked me up at Fukushima station by a car donated by Mr. Bae Yong-joon. Along the national highway heading to Soma city, Dogwoods were in blossom with small, pink or white flowers.
Soma city is situated in Hamadori, a coastal area, in the north part of Fukushima Prefecture. There was no damage by Tsunami at the center of the city as it was some kilos away from the water toward the inland areas. In the coastal area of the city, however, more than 400 citizens were killed or went missing due to Tsunami.
Originally, there was no psychiatry treatment facility in Soma city. After the disaster, above mentioned Department of Neuropsychiatry, The School of Medicine, Fukushima Medical University took a leading part to establish a team for emotional care. As the Local-governmental Soma General Hospital did not have psychiatry, psychiatrists gathered from all over the country were in charge of outpatient care by turns, using the space for the outpatients of the other departments, or making house calls to the shelters. The members of Medical team gathered in the health center of Soma city every morning and had a joint meeting. The manager of the center was moved to tears in front of the doctors, pharmacists, public health nurses and nurses gathered for the meeting, saying “Nothing is better than your attending. You are our anchors.”
In the shelter, I met a victim whose child was swept away by Tsunami. I was at a loss for words and just listened to the story. Early in the morning, I ran to the coastal area to observe silence. Having no one around in the residential, harbor and factory areas, the area was as though the burnt-out ruins. One wild green pheasant ran through in the empty town, and an apron was hung down from a branch of a tall tree.
At that time, I was just a temporary supporting member. Since then, I wanted to serve in the medical support system in Tohoku area in a continuous manner. Fortunately, the opportunity was presented by Médecins du Monde at the end of 2011, and I have been doing this medical support down to date. When I joined the supporting activity temporarily in May 2011, a team of Neuropsychiatry from Fukushima Medical University was acting as a main hosting organization. I think it was meant to be to have the same team as a host for this time, too.
Now, I am in charge of growing number of patients in Soma, and so, I would like to continue the work here as long as I can be of help.
Psychiatrist Ippei Kohata