Chikako Ozawa-de Silva - Associate Professor of Anthropology, Emory University
Suicide prevention has become a major public health policy issue in Japan over the past decade due to extremely elevated suicide rates since 1998. Discourse in Japan on suicide prevention has nevertheless focused almost exclusively on the state of the Japanese economy and levels of mental illness, neglecting the subjective experience of suicidal individuals and the roles that meaning and positive mental health play in suicide and its prevention. Increasing evidence suggests that a lack of positive mental health may be more important than the presence of mental illness in predicting future suicide attempts, and also that treatment of mental illness alone may not address the lack of psychological and social well-being (including meaning or purpose in life, loneliness, and existential suffering) implicated in suicidality. Since positive mental health and subjective well-being involve meaning-making processes and social relationships that are heavily influenced by cultural factors and may vary widely cross-culturally, there is great scope for local ethnographic studies to contribute to our knowledge of factors conducive to positive mental health and potentially preventative for suicide. Biographical notes: CHIKAKO OZAWA-DE SILVA, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Medical Anthropology at Emory University. She received her D. Phil. in Social and Cultural Anthropology from Oxford University in 2001. Following that, she was a Visiting Research Fellow at Harvard’s Department of Social Medicine, and a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago. Her research includes the Japanese psychotherapeutic practice of Naikan, suicide in Japan, and Tibetan medicine. Her publications include one monograph, Psychotherapy and Religion in Japan: The Japanese Introspection Practice of Naikan (Routledge, 2006), “Mind/Body Theory and Practice in Tibetan Medicine and Buddhism” in Body & Society (2011), “Shared Death: Self, Sociality and Internet Group Suicide in Japan” in Transcultural Psychiatry (2010), “Secularizing Religious Practices: A Study of Subjectivity and Existential Transformation in Naikan Therapy” in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2010), “Too Lonely To Die Alone: Internet Suicide Pacts and Existential Suffering in Japan” in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry (2008), “Demystifying Japanese Therapy: An Analysis of Naikan and the Ajase Complex Through Buddhist Thought” in Ethos (2007), and “Beyond the Body/Mind? Japanese Contemporary Thinkers on Alternative Sociologies of the Body” in Body & Society (2002). Her academic vision is to contribute to cross-cultural understandings of health and illness, especially mental illness, and make a contribution to the field of medical anthropology by bringing Western and Asian (particularly Japanese and Tibetan) perspectives on the mind-body, religion, medicine, therapy, and health and illness into fruitful dialogue.