Urine for a mental health screening.

Although progress is being made, mental illness still carries a stigma in Japan, making it harder for many people to seek the help they need. It’s especially a problem among the older generation, but when the bulk of the population is elderly, it becomes everyone’s problem.

Luckily, one potential solution has arrived in a test kit developed by Cellspect, a medical equipment supplier in Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture. From late August, these kits will be made available online and at drugs stores in the six prefectures of the Tohoku region (Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and Yamagata) for between 3,000 and 4,000 yen (US$27-$36) each.

Those who purchase the test must first collect a urine sample and then submit it either by mail or directly at participating drug stores. The urine will then be analyzed to assess the owner’s risk factors for mental illnesses such as depression and the results can be sent directly to their smartphone.

▼ Results are said to arrive in a matter of days

It’s important to note that these tests do not diagnose mental illness but instead gauge a person’s potential for developing one. If a high risk is found, then that person should seek a professional diagnosis to know if they are currently suffering from such an illness or what steps they should take to prevent it in the future.

Urine tests to detect mental illness symptoms themselves are not new and are somewhat controversial as to their effectiveness. However, as a discreet way for people take that first step into examining their own mental health, these self screen kits could make a significant difference in Japan.

Some readers of the news were also tempted to try one, despite being confused about how it works.

“Why don’t they do that with the urine test at my annual physical?”
“I kind of want to try this…”
“Companies should just install these kits directly in their toilets.”
“Huh, this could be good.”
“They can do that with urine?”
“Isn’t it just a test for anti-depressant drugs?”
“Is depression such a thing? I didn’t think you could detect mental things with urine, but if a medical supply company can do it, I guess it is possible.”

Some of the confusion displayed in the comments show how mental illness is often misunderstood as not even a medical problem, making proper treatment that much more difficult. This uncertainty combined with a sense of embarrassment would often have people resort to self-diagnosing online among all its misinformation.

This new kit gives that same sense of privacy but from a more reliable source that can also help people get on the right track to proper mental health. It may not change the world, but every little bit counts.

Source: Saga Shimbun, Otaku.com
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso
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