Thailand faces mental health crisis with nearly 10 million affected

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Nearly 10 million individuals in Thailand are grappling with mental health issues, with almost 11% of the population at risk of suicide, according to the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC). Additionally, around 16% of the population experiences regular stress.

Secretary-General of NESDC, Danucha Pichayanan highlighted the gravity of the situation as the agency released its first-quarter report on Thai society. The report underscores that mental health has become a critical concern.

The Department of Mental Health reported a continuous rise in psychiatric patients, from 1.3 million in 2015 to 2.9 million in 2023, said Danucha.

“Despite Thailand officially having 2.9 million patients who received medical treatment last year, the actual number of those with mental health issues may reach as many as 10 million, as many people don’t seek treatment.

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This indicates we have a higher proportion of these patients than the global average and suggests there are a significant number of untreated cases.”

A significant portion of the population remains at risk of developing mental health problems. Between October 1, 2023, and April 22, 2024, the department found that 15.5% of people with mental health problems experienced high-stress levels, 17.2% were at risk of depression, and 10.6% were at risk of suicide.

Severe economic impacts

Danucha noted that these figures have worsened compared to previous years, pointing out that mental health issues have significant economic impacts.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) found that depression and anxiety contribute to the loss of about 12 billion workdays globally, resulting in an economic loss exceeding US$1 trillion (36 trillion baht).

Nearly one in five individuals with mental health issues are unable to care for themselves, necessitating family care and leading to substantial human resource losses. Moreover, less than a quarter of high-risk psychiatric patients receive adequate monitoring and care.

The NESDC also identified that increased economic and social pressures have led to higher rates of depression and anxiety. In 2023, anxiety and depression surpassed methamphetamine and other substance abuse as the top mental health issues.

Danucha noted that the suicide rate is nearly as high as it was during the 1997 Tom Yam Kung crisis.

“In fiscal 2023, the suicide rate was 7.94 per 100,000 people, close to the rate during the Tom Yum Kung crisis at 8.59 per 100,000 people.”

Additionally, research in the UK revealed that air pollution increased depression in young people by 20%, while a study by Mahidol University found that seven in ten people in Bangkok experience burnout at work, reported Bangkok Post.

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). Please also contact your friends or relatives at this time if you have feelings of loneliness, stress, or depression. Seek help.

Thailand News

Ryan Turner

Ryan is a journalism student from Mahidol University with a passion for history, writing and delivering news content with a rich storytelling narrative.

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