There are a number of people to talk to when you run into all kinds of problems.
Apart from your friends or family, there are the PAs (Prefectural Advisors).
This system was established to provide referral services and to help JETs deal with problems related to living and working conditions. The PAs have received training in counselling techniques and know about the internal workings of the Prefectural bureaucratic engine. If you have a problem relating to your contract (i.e. not being allowed to take sick leave) or other personal issues (culture shock/life in Japan/other worries) you can speak to your PA.
For those in the LGBTQ community, there is an active group on Facebook called “Stonewall Japan.” It specifically serves to support all those who are LGBTQ or allies that are living in Japan. Fortunately, you likely won’t encounter any hostility from Japanese people who are largely in favor of improving their civil rights policies. However, it may be difficult to confide in your JTE, be it because of language barriers or anything else, so knowing who and where you can go to is important.
Every JET has come across some sort of hardship while living in Japan. We all have our individual coping styles and we know what works for us. The PA comes in when you have exhausted all of your normal problem solving methods and still cannot make the problem better. Though your PAs cannot solve the problem for you, they can help you find out the root of the problem so you can ultimately solve it yourself.
The balance of relationships in your workplace is VERY delicate. One of the things you should AVOID at all costs is going over your supervisor’s head. If you have a work-related problem, you must talk to your supervisor first. In some cases you can also talk to another co-worker with whom you feel comfortable. If this does not yield satisfactory results, contact the PA. For your supervisor getting a call from Kencho (the Board of Education) is usually a cause of anxiety and may negatively affect the relationship between you and your coworkers. The PA may ask you first to speak to your supervisor about the problem, and if you have not done so be sure to let the PA know – an “unexpected” call from Kencho to your supervisor can be very stressful.
Obvious exceptions are sexual harassment or security issues. If your supervisor does not understand or show concern on these issues or does not seem to be taking appropriate steps, let the PA know as soon as possible before the situation escalates.
When you need a sane voice or someone to bounce ideas off or vent frustration, you can also give your PA a call. The PAs will probably have had some very similar experiences.
There is always someone at the PA’s office who can speak English, so don’t be nervous about calling.
Sometimes for one reason or another, the usual people we go to are busy, or otherwise unable to help when we want to talk. Or perhaps there is something big that we are struggling to deal with. As JETs, it be an isolating experience moving to a new country, facing various troubles as we adapt to an entirely different environment. Luckily there are a number of options available to those of us in the program. While generally seeking professional help will be covered by the national healthcare in Japan, there are some cases where it is not. In those cases, CLAIR offers a partial subsidy (50%, up to 20,000 yen per year) for counseling costs incurred through consultation with mental health professionals in Japan that do not qualify for health insurance. They refer to this program as: JET Programme Mental Health Counseling Assistance Program. In addition, CLAIR also offers a free online service to provide JET participants with mental health assistance from professional counsellors using Web Mail and Skype. If you have more questions, your contracting organization should have additional information about these programs offered by CLAIR. Incoming JETs should receive a pamphlet or flyer about contact information and more when you arrive at Tokyo Orientation.
For those looking for other means of support, we recommend visiting the JET Programme website.