Short Twitter Comic on Suicide Gets Expanded Print Edition
posted on by Eric Stimson
Japan's punishing work culture and historical ambivalence towards suicide have combined to create a high suicide rate for a developed nation. Perhaps that is part of the reason why an eight-page comic about the subject, sketchily drawn but vividly emotional, garnered over 300,000 retweets when it was posted on Twitter in October. Its artist, Kona Shiomachi, drew it in response to a story about an employee at an electronics company who committed suicide out of overwork in December 2015.
Shiomachi once worked at an advertising firm with a very heavy workload; the artist recalls working 90 to 100 hours overtime and catching the last train home. Shiomachi once realized that "one step" would be a release from the pressures of work: the fateful step off the train platform and onto the tracks.
Shiomachi explains that an overworked person lives as if he or she is walking a very narrow road with steep cliffs on either side. There are other options branching off the road: finding a new job, just quitting, taking off work, etc.
But for various reasons, overworked people "paint over" the signs pointing them off their path (they don't want to worry their parents, they have bills to pay, they don't want to burden their coworkers, etc.). And so they struggle on, exhausting themselves, until finally they conclude the path ahead of them is too rocky and steep... and there is nothing but darkness around them.
Shiomachi concludes the comic by advising readers to watch out for those who start "painting over doors" (dismissing alternatives). The artist suggests consulting psychiatrists, getting some sleep (even if these mean taking off work!), and in a pinch, just finding a safe place during the commute to sit down until an ambulance comes. If you do that, you will come to realize that "the world truly is wide open."
On April 10, the comic will be published in a 160-page edition by Asa Publishing. Titled "Shinu Kurai Nara Kaisha Yamereba" ga Dekinai Wake ("Why You Can't Just Quit Your Job If You Feel Like Dying"), it includes advice from a psychiatrist on how to cope with overwork and stress, how to choose psychosomatic medicine, and how to deal with your family in this situation. There are also testimonies from overworked people who managed to escape their predicament.
"It's weird that people who feel guilty and try their best end up choosing death," Shiomachi said. "We can't wait for the government or companies to respond. I want us to realize again that the choice to live is up to the person in question. I want to tell many people that you protect your own life."
Twitter's free-form environment has led to a flurry of amateur artists using it as a bulletin for their own thoughts and feelings expressed in comic format; some of them can get quite depressing. Just remember, no matter how cruel and grinding life can get, there's a way to cope with it that doesn't involve suicide.