Japan reviews mental health system

TOKYO • Japan is reviewing its mental health system to see how a man who was hospitalised after making violent threats came to be discharged after just 12 days and was later able to kill 19 people.

Satoshi Uematsu, 26, has admitted to carrying out the country's worst mass killing in decades on Tuesday when he stabbed 19 people to death and wounded 26 others at a care centre for the mentally disabled in Sagamihara, west of Tokyo.

A former employee of the centre, Uematsu left his job in February and was forcibly hospitalised by city authorities for evaluation after he made verbal and written threats to kill the mentally disabled, including those at the centre.

His release from hospital, after it was decided he posed no threat, has raised questions about the decision to discharge him as well as his follow-up monitoring.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has now met the relevant officials and ordered a review of the mental healthcare system, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters yesterday.

"The Prime Minister ordered the ministers to study necessary measures, such as strengthening safety at facilities and following up on those receiving compulsory mental treatment, as swiftly as possible and putting them into action," Mr Suga said.

SWIFT ACTION ORDERED

The Prime Minister ordered the ministers to study necessary measures, such as strengthening safety at facilities and following up on those receiving compulsory mental treatment, as swiftly as possible and putting them into action.

MR YOSHIHIDE SUGA, top government spokesman.

According to the Health Ministry, mentally ill people who threaten to harm themselves or others can be subjected to involuntary hospitalisation.

The government will review the timing of such admissions and discharges, follow-up care after they are released and the sharing of information with police, Jiji Press said.

"It is indispensable to examine the decision made by the city to discharge him from the hospital and the city's handling of him after his discharge," Japan's top-selling Yomiuri Shimbun daily said in an editorial on Wednesday.

A report in The Japan Times said that after Uematsu's discharge from hospital, the local government had planned to check on him but could not do so because of a staff shortage.

Uematsu, who is now being questioned by prosecutors after turning himself in, reportedly said he wanted all disabled people to "disappear".

He was hospitalised after delivering a letter to a Member of Parliament in which he threatened to kill hundreds of mentally disabled people. He was discovered at the time to be suffering from paranoia as well as being dependent on cannabis, but was discharged 12 days later.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2016, with the headline 'Japan reviews mental health system'. Print Edition | Subscribe