A Gathering for Parents Concerned about Social Withdrawal (referring to a condition in which the affected individuals shun society for six months or more, for instance, by shutting themselves in their rooms) was held in Doyusha Hall on the afternoon of April 26. The event drew 56 participants including parents of those who are socially withdrawn as well as those doing salvation work aimed at helping people with this condition. They shared their concerns and experiences while seeking tips for solutions during the gathering.
This event is one of a series of gatherings organized as a follow-up to the Yoboku Forum on Social Withdrawal, sponsored by Tenri Yamato Culture Congress in the summer of 2001. At the end of that forum–which consisted of a keynote speech by a specialist followed by a panel discussion–the office of the congress received requests to provide opportunities for people to seek advice on social withdrawal and to hear about actual experiences in salvation work involving socially withdrawn people. Tenri Yamato Culture Congress thus called on Tenrikyo followers working as counselors to cooperate in addressing these needs and organized the first gathering for this purpose in the fall of 2001. Four additional gatherings took place last year. This year, once again, four gatherings are planned, the first one having recently been held. The remaining three are scheduled for the afternoons of the 26th of June, September, and November.
The recent gathering began with the presentation of a much talked about documentary called “Home,” which is about its director’s brother who had been avoiding almost all social contact ever since graduation from high school.
Next, clinical psychologist Kazuo Hayakashi, a committee member of Tenri Yamato Culture Congress, gave a keynote speech to explain the purpose of holding these gatherings. “Those who suffer from social withdrawal often do not show significant improvement immediately after interventions,” he said. “Instead, it takes some time just to show any sign of improvement. Therefore, it is very important for the family members of socially withdrawn people and those who engage in salvation work with them to set up a place where they can support one another as well as draw resources from one another to avoid becoming disheartened.”
Then, the participants were broken up into groups of three to introduce themselves to one another and share their reflections on the film. This was followed by all participants being divided into three larger groups, in which they were joined by counselors including clinical psychologist Hayakashi as they shared their experiences and worries.
After the gathering, participants voiced their approval of the event. A head minister in his 40s said: “One of my followers has a child who has been socially withdrawn for about 10 years. I learned a lot from hearing about what other parents of socially withdrawn children have actually been through.” A woman in her 50s said: “I thought that I was the only one who was exhausted from caring for someone with this condition every day. Having attended today’s gathering, I feel as if all my fatigue disappeared. Having this gathering at Jiba must have been due to the exquisite workings of God the Parent and Oyasama, and I am just grateful for this.”
Among the participants who said they wanted to attend the next gathering was a mission station head who had brought the father of a socially withdrawn person he had been trying to help.