Report on COVID-19 and deinstitutionalization in Japan

Japan National Group of Mentally Disabled People was established in 1974, and is a national organization composed of individuals and organizations of people with psychosocial disabilities. We have an office in Tokyo, Japan, and are advocating our human rights, making policy recommendations, and so on.
Firstly, we would report situations of mental health system in Japan. There are about 1,680,000 beds, and about 340,000 of them are psychiatric beds. In addition, about 90 percent of psychiatric beds are in private psychiatric hospitals, and about 80 percent of private hospitals are single department hospitals . Most of the single department psychiatric hospitals are placed in areas isolated from the haunts of men. It is pointed out that about 18,000 inpatients have been hospitalized more than 50 years in psychiatric hospitals .
Next, we would report problems related to COVID-19 in Japan. Restrictions on visitation and going out have been introduced in psychiatric institutions in the name of preventive measures from infection of COVID-19. These preventive measures are not based on laws or ordinances but independent actions of the institutions. The inpatients of psychiatric institutions are disconnected from outside of the institutions and society, and isolated. In addition, these measures hinder access to supports out of the institutions, and make their transition to community slow down.
Nevertheless of these preventive measures, clusters of COVID-19 have been frequently occurring in psychiatric institutions. According to our supporter’s survey, the infection rate is four times higher and the death rate is four times higher than that of out of the institutions. Inpatients with psychosocial disabilities do not bring the virus into the institutions, because they cannot go out of the institutions. Rather, they are locked up, prevented from escaping, and infected with the virus brought from the outside.
The reason why the clusters of COVID-19 easily occur in the psychiatric institutions is that medical institutions in Japan are not inclusive. The medical systems prevent cooperation between psychiatric department and other departments, and isolate people with psychosocial disabilities. It is very difficult in psychiatric institutions to treat infection diseases. General hospitals, however, discriminate people with psychosocial disabilities who are infected with COVID-19, reject them from hospitalization and transfer them to psychiatric institutions. Therefore, the disease clusters endlessly occur in psychiatric institutions.
Japanese government decided to prioritize people with psychosocial disabilities on COVID-19 vaccination. This can be interpreted as that they choose invasion to our body instead of dissolution of psychiatric institutions as the disease preventive measure. We believe that dissolution of the psychiatric institutions is essential to release people with psychosocial disabilities from the thread to COVID-19.