The Recovery of “Psychological Safety” is a Challenge for Japan's Economic Growth
Graduate from the University Advanced Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Studies
and Skills at the University of Derby, UK
In recent years, there has been a global emphasis on nurturing innovation-oriented workers. For instance, the World Economic Forum has predicted that "analytical thinking and innovation" will be the most essential skills for workers in 2025. Consequently, the imperative for both educational institutions and companies is to create an environment that facilitates innovation, with a particular focus on enhancing psychological safety. This is because in environments characterized by high psychological safety, individuals are more likely to freely express their ideas and take calculated risks, which fosters the emergence of new ideas and innovations. Conversely, in settings with low psychological safety, people often find it challenging to voice their opinions and tend to suppress their self-expression, thus limiting opportunities for productive inspiration.
Unfortunately, despite these global trends, psychological safety in Japanese companies and schools continues to lag behind, remaining at a lower level. This serves as a significant impediment to Japan's economic growth. For instance, the mental health policies recommended by Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare have not yielded significant results since now. There are several reasons for this, but primarily, an excessive reliance on mental health professionals may not encourage people’s mutual support. This is elaborated upon in detail in the following commentary, which is published by Springer Nature “Current Psychology” (https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-023-04881-x).
Additionally, in the realm of education, while there has been progress in the increasing of psychological counselors due to national policies, the rates of school refusal and youth suicide continue to rise. As of 2022, the number of students refusing to attend school has exceeded 200,000, and the number of annual suicides among elementary to high school students has surpassed 500, that has reached an all-time high. The mental health of young people keeps deteriorating at an alarming rate and Japan stands as the sole advanced nation where suicide ranks as the leading cause of mortality among adolescents and young adults. This is highly critical situation.
As background information, there is relevant data from a 2022 survey of parents of junior high and high school students conducted by NHK, which revealed that over 80% of both fathers and mothers expressed a sense of 'hopelessness' regarding Japan's future. Generally the parents of these junior high and high school students belong to the age group that forms the backbone of the workforce in organizations. This data suggests that there is an overall high level of anxiety among the demographic that drives Japan's economy. And it is significant to consider that such an uncertain family environment could be underlying factor of the prevalence of school refusal and youth suicide.
In Japan, issues within both the educational and industrial fields are often discussed as separate concerns. However, it is crucial to view mental health issues, youth suicides, and school refusal as consequences of the societal system. To address the improvement of those mental health challenges, it is of utmost importance that the lack of psychological safety within recent Japanese society should be widely recognized among Japanese people. Furthermore, instead of relying on symptomatic treatments such as medication or counseling, it is imperative for each of us to proactively consider and act upon self and others’ well-being and improve the societal structure itself. By analytically assessing the current situation (= analytical thinking), innovatively restoring "psychological safety," (= innovation) and creating an environment where everyone can unleash their innovative mindset, there lies the potential for future economic development in Japan.