Until recently in Japan, mental health issues have been carefully guarded as personal and family secrets. In 2014, however, the government passed a revision of the Labor Safety Hygiene Law and institutionalized “stress checks” for workers across the nation. This mental health screening was installed as a response to the high number of depressed and suicidal workers in a country plagued by recession since the 1990s. The screening was also prompted by a grassroots movement that helped establish state and corporate responsibility for protecting workers’ mental health. These changes have initiated a web of corporate surveillance practices, pressuring workers to self-disclose, turning their psychology into a new object of rehabilitation and resilience training. At the same time, there are signs of the emergence of therapeutic spaces where psychiatrists and workers explore new forms of silence and ways of retaining a sense of a private, secret self, thereby enabling a “rebirth of secrets.” By investigating the rise of depression as a workplace psychopathology and emerging forms of “care of the self,” I ask what happens to people’s subjectivities when their minds and bodies become the repository of valuable secrets.
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