In case you weren’t following the story, a 26-year-old Japanese man stabbed 19 people to death, and wounded 26 others at a care facility for the mentally-challenged in Sagamihara, west of Tokyo in Kanagawa-ken.
The thing is… Uematsu Satoshi (surname first), the alleged offender (he did it, but hasn’t had his court date yet) had been released from a hospital after being forcibly hospitalized by city authorities for evaluation after he had made violent verbal and written threats to kill the mentally challenged, including those at the center he attacked.
The hospital assessing Uematsu apparently decided he posed no threat and discharged him. He had been diagnosed as paranoid and dependent on marijuana… but only spent 12 days in the hospital for his psych evaluation.
Uematsu had, prior to his hospitalization, delivered a letter to a member of parliament—in it he threatened to kill hundreds of mentally-challenged people.
How the hell do you come up with a ‘paranoid’ assessment when someone takes the time to write down that he is going to kill hundreds of people?
Japan’s Health Ministry mandates that ‘mentally ill people who threaten to harm themselves or others can be subjected to involuntary hospitalization.’
In Uematsu’s case, it appears as though in voluntary hospitalization only amounted to 12 days.
While local government officials were supposed to do a follow-up on Uematsu (as they are supposed to do with all discharges), no such follow-up ensued, owing to a lack of available staff.
Now… up until February 2016, Uematsu had worked at the center he later attacked. He probably wasn’t the most well-liked person there… and while news articles say that Uematsu left his job, it is equally possible that he was made to leave, perhaps hushing up something else.
Why would I say that?
How else do you explain why the mentally-challenged hospital/center went out and installed 16 security cameras in April after learning of Uematsu’s release from the psych evaluation hospital?
It was afraid of Uematsu… they took his threats very seriously. But it wasn’t effective, obviously.
On the night of his attack on July 26, 2016, Uematsu entered the hospital (I’m still not sure how) and tied up five of the eight caregivers, and then… over a 50-minute rampage stabbed, and slashed at 45 patients with severe mental handicaps.
According to the Japan News Network, Uematsu specifically targeted patients who could not communicate, stabbing his 19 victims in the chest and upper body with deep stab wounds.
Japan Prime Minister Abe Shinzo 9surname first) has ordered officials within his political domain to review the healthcare system and to determine what measures can be implemented to make such facilities more secure, and to see how patients requiring medical/mental health treatment receive it as swiftly as possible.
As well, the government will examine the timing of: admissions; discharges; follow-up care after release; and the sharing of information with police.
As an aside, I asked how the hospitalized Uematsu could have been released - especially if they noticed he was paranoid… but I suspect that Uematsu was able to hide his mental health issues from the assessors.
Can a paranoid person kill 19 people? Isn’t paranoia just part of an overall diagnosis? In this case, it is obviously a big YES.
I might suppose that Uematsu was very good at covering up his violent tendencies when confronted by others. Sort of bi-polar?
Still… after his murderous rampage, Uematsu went to a local police station and turned himself in… he was obviously in charge of his faculties to know that what he had done was wrong… why else confess to the police?
Maybe he really was paranoid of the mentally ill or disabled… and not wanting anyone else to be hurt during a manhunt, he turned himself in…
If someone was bi-polar, they can cycle between ups and downs very quickly… sometimes (often) not recalling what they had done while manic… as the brain compartmentalizes those ‘embarrassing’ moments.
But look at that photo of Uematsu in the police cruiser… he’s not embarrassed (no hiding of the face with hands or a jacket)… no slouching… he looks calm… smug even… is he psychotic?
The problem with most of Japan’s criminal cases—especially with its attitude towards people with chemical imbalance—is that we may never get an answer as to why the spree occurred.
However… I do believe that Japan will take a hard look at the system, and will—for a while—do its job in providing more resources and care to those with mental health issues.
PS: Image above shows Uematsu Satoshi in the back of a police cruiser, returning from lock-up to the Tsukui police station in Sagamihara, Kanagawa-ken on July 27, 2016. Photo by AFP.