Tokyo (SCCIJ) – The Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan (SCCIJ) will donate a total of JPY 1 million (approximately US$ 9’200) to two Japanese organizations in support of mental health. With this donation, the SCCIJ hopes to raise awareness of the serious mental health issues caused to many by the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the chamber decided to support two smaller local projects that work hard in the shadow of larger global charity foundations.
Mitigating pandemic effects
In the summer of 2020, the Executive Committee decided to reduce all membership fees for 2021. This “Token of Support” was supposed to lower the financial burden for pandemic-stricken members and to make up for reduced membership opportunities during 2020. At the same time, members were given the option to waive the deduction and instead donate this part of their membership fee to a worthy cause chosen on their behalf by the Executive Committee.
Summed up, the “token of support” donations amounted to JPY 715’000. The Executive Committee decided to increase this sum to JPY 1 million and, after a careful due diligence check, support two organizations with a donation of JPY 500’000 each – “The Mindfulness for Health Professionals Building Resilience and Compassion Program” (MaHALO Program) and an NPO providing mental health counseling, named Tokyo Mental Health Square (TMS).
“Our donation aims to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and simply speaking, also follows Switzerland’s longstanding humanitarian tradition. Long shunned, it is important to actively address the challenges that lead to the impairment of mental wellbeing. Those affected need professional help and a warm heart. Whilst our donation is still modest, we hope that this little sign of appreciation to the ones that help those in need, will in effect be of benefit to the whole community,” SCCIJ President Andre Zimmermann said.
Raising awareness for mental health
Given the intention behind the donation, the chamber was looking for a needy cause related to the pandemic but going beyond directly infected or sickened persons and their relatives. As a result, mental health was chosen by the Executive Committee as the focus. “Since the beginning of the pandemic and its negative impact on work-life balance, mental health issues and the increase of suicides have become pressing topics that need to be addressed without reservation. A lot still needs to be done,” Zimmermann explained.
As part of an overall effort, the SCCIJ is collaborating with the two organizations to raise awareness for this often-neglected issue. Dr. Daisuke Fujisawa of Keio University, who is a co-founder of the MaHALO Program, will speak at the chamber’s luncheon about “Mental Wellness in Uncertain Times: Practical Tools and Tips”. Furthermore, the chamber is currently discussing with “Tokyo Mental Health Square” to offer webinars or even workshops for member companies, and to increase offers for non-Japanese speakers.
About the MaHALO Program
The MaHALO Program aims to cultivate medical professionals’ mindfulness and compassion, thereby alleviating their perceived stress and burnout. Participants in the program are medical professionals working in the fields of cancer treatment and palliative care. The program consists of a 2-day workshop, homework, and follow-up tasks over several weeks.
The donation will be used to develop an online version of the program as currently holding physical workshops is difficult. This also opens up the possibility of extending MaHALO to medical workers nationwide to help them deal with the increased stress due to COVID-19.
About Tokyo Mental Health Square
Tokyo Mental Health Square is a NPO founded by Mr. Seiei Muto that provides counseling and mental support for different aspects of life, affordable for everyone. Currently, around 100 trained counselors, mostly volunteers, work in shifts 365 days a year to provide counseling by phone, online, social media, and face-to-face. Only about 40% of the inquiries received, the most urgent, can currently be addressed. This situation worsened during the pandemic because the number of inquiries increased considerably. Additionally, TMS organizes free seminars and workshops open to everyone.
SCCIJ’s contribution will be used to cover the actual cost of phone counseling provided almost for free. The amount will support the offer for about a year. Among TMHS staff, some people can lend an ear to non-Japanese speakers addressing them in English upon prior request.