Increase in suicide feared in Thailand as Covid-19 grows

FILE PHOTO: The affects of Covid-19 may drive more people in Thailand to suicide.

Suicides increasing may be the most unfortunate side effect of living through a pandemic. In Thailand, those living in red and dark red zones, and people afflicted with Covid-19, or with close relatives or friends affected, are the most vulnerable to suicide according to the Thai Department of Mental Health.

The increased restrictions tend to lead to depression and high stress for residence, echoing a common fear that the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic increase suicide rates and create a mental health crisis. The very intention to reduce the spread of Covid – socially distancing people from one another – produces an unintentional state-legislated consequence of the lockdowns and restrictions.

Normally, nearly 800,000 suicides are recorded around the world each year, and experts believe that attempted suicide numbers are severely underreported. A recent study predicted about 9,570 additional suicides around the world due to unemployment. Financial insecurity, unemployment, loneliness, isolation, loss of social support, and fear of infection and death all contribute to the stress of life during the pandemic.

According to The Telegraph, the suicide crisis helpline in Thailand reported their call volume doubled last year with the onset of Covid-19, with 80% of the calls being finance-related. The Samaritans have 80 volunteers working from home and recently opened a Facebook Messenger account, citing younger people’s preference of messaging over phone calls.

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The Thai government attempted to calm lockdown-induced financial panic by implementing 5,000 baht payments for 3 months but the rollout was slow and troubled. Last year one woman even drink rat poison outside of the Ministry of Finance to protest flow payments of financial aid. Worse, in a country full of under-the-table jobs like migrants, farmers, and sex workers, the funds were unavailable to many.

Many workers instead took loans that the unpredicted length of the pandemic has made impossible to repay. Household debt reached an all-time high last year with the population’s total debt reaching a record 89% of Thailand’s GDP. People are getting increasingly desperate and hopeless with government assistance programs failing to compensate for the struggles that much of Thailand is facing now.

International studies into the issue showed that in many countries, in the early phases of the pandemic and lockdowns, suicide rates actually decreased or remained even as people were hyper-focused on the immediate challenges of daily life. But with Covid-19 dragging on in Thailand, suicide rates tend to creep up, as feelings of long-term hopelessness and economic despair set in.

With Thailand’s tourism-weighted economy and the disproportionate strength of Covid-19’s third-wave, the economic effect has been severe. According to The Telegraph, 1.45 million jobs in the tourism sector were lost last year and another 1 million losses are predicted this year. The sudden near-complete drop in tourism income is similar to the 1997 Asian financial crisis, a time which saw suicide rates in Thailand jump 20 to 30%, according to some government figures.

Thailand had escaped the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, almost unscathed economically (barring its loss of tourism income), but the third wave beginning in early April dashed all hopes of a mental and economic recovery anytime soon.

Covid-19 is now spreading much faster and wider than ever before in Thailand, and only 1% of the people have been vaccinated. 80% of death by Covid-19 in Thailand took place just in the last 30 days, pushing feelings of despair in the struggling nation.

If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress, please contact the Samaritans of Thailand 24-hour hotline: 02 713 6791 (English), 02 713 6793 (Thai) or the Thai Mental Health Hotline at 1323 (Thai).

SOURCE: The Telegraph

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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