Tourism for mental health

by IMTIAZ MUQBIL ,  Bangkok Post | 2008-07-21

You've heard of "medical tourism" and "health and wellness tourism". Now, get ready for a new one: "Mental Health Tourism".

A paper presented by Japanese researchers at the Asia Pacific Tourism Association annual conference in Bangkok last week says this form of tourism would be specifically targeted at urban dwellers suffering from depression and stress, largely as a result of sitting for too long in front of computer screens.

Said the paper, "Especially, in modern Japan, people tend to lose their mental health. [Government statistics] showed that the number of patients who suffer mental diseases in 2006 was two times higher than in 1996.

"The estimated number of patients suffering from mental disease was over three million, with one third of the patients being treated for depression. One person in every 40 in Japan has serious mental problems.

"Therefore, as a nation, Japan has to deal with this situation. Japanese companies, especially big companies, have found themselves paying more money on prevention, treatment, and leaves of absence due to mental diseases such as depression. Japanese schools also have introduced a school counsellor in every school to cope with this situation."

Researchers Takashi Ouchi and Aiko Matsuura of Chiba University and Shingo Shiota of Waseda University warned: "What has happened in Japan will happen in the near future in other Asian countries."

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