Hikikomori in Singapore: Recluses hidden from view and at a loss

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Hikikomori in Singapore: Recluses hidden from view and at a loss

Post by whitecorp » Fri Jul 12, 2019 7:32 pm

https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/h ... -loss-help

SINGAPORE — She was 27 and suffering from depression in 2015. Instead of seeking help, Jane (not her real name) decided to shut herself off from the outside world, spending most of her time alone at home.

For more than two years she lived like a hermit. On some days, she would listen to music, watch videos, play the guitar or read. But there were days when her mind slipped into an abyss.

“I couldn’t do anything other than compulsively overthink and self-harm,” she said, declining to elaborate.

She became reclusive when she decided to shut down her café, which she opened after graduating from university with a degree in advertising.

Asked whether something had triggered her to become a recluse, she replied: “It just naturally happened and I never thought I needed a reason for that because staying alone in my own world was just so much better than anything else.”

During the time she lived in isolation, Jane – who is now 31 and requested anonymity – largely relied on her savings. Grocery shopping was done online. When ill, she turned to home medication.

It was only recently that she was told by a psychologist that her situation was a case of hikikomori – a term coined by Japanese psychiatrist Tamaki Saito to describe adolescents or adults who withdraw from society, isolating and confining themselves to the walls of their homes for six months or longer.

In Singapore, however, it remains unclear as to how many individuals have the condition. The Institute of Mental Health has not seen any cases of hikikomori and there are no published local studies on the issue.

That does not mean there are no cases at all. Social workers and private psychologists and psychiatrists told TODAY that they see up to five cases a year, with most of them teens and young adults aged between 10 and 39.

But the number of people experiencing hikikomori could be bigger. It’s just that they go largely unreported because they are not coming forward to seek help, said social workers and psychologists.

Primarily, it’s because they refuse to make contact with professionals offering help either due to denial or the stigma attached. There is also a fear of meeting others aside from family.

As a result, parents too are at a loss as to whether they should seek help and how to go about doing it. The lack of intervention though could only make matters worse.

Ms Cindy Ng, the director of professional standards at Methodist Welfare Services, said: “It is like a downward spiral where the youth sinks deeper and deeper with time. The more isolated the youth is, the more fearful he is of interacting with others.”

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