Three million Thais ‘mentally ill’

At least three million Thais are known to suffer from some form or other of mental illness, Deputy Health Minister Dr Surawith Konsomboon said on Wednesday.

He was speaking to reporters after attending a ceremony where Boon Chartpanich donated 47 rai land to be used to build a psychiatric hospital in Phitsanulok province.

Dr Surawit said the latest study by the Department of Mental Health concluded that around 20% of Thais, or about one in every five, suffer from some form of mental illness. The most common diseases were psychosis, anxiety disorders, depression and apoplexy (a stroke), he said.

However, only three million of them had been registered with hospitals nationwide last year. Of these, only 1.09 million undergo regular treatment at the 17 psychiatric hospitals countrywide.

He said the number of mental health patients is likely to grow each year.

Within 15 years most of Thai society will be urbanised, especially the eastern regions, leading to more health problems among the people.

“As a result of  urbanisation, society will become more fragile and self centered, the majority of households are  likely to consist only of the father, mother and their children (fewer elderly people), with women playing the lead role in most families,” he said.

Dr Surawit said the World Health Organization is concerned about the rising incidence of depression across the globe. The WHO had recently moved depression to number two on its priority list, immediately below  heart disease.

Dr Surawit said the ministry plans to expand the availability mental health treatment during 2013-2016. Help  would be available to all groups of people - men, women, children, young adults and the elderly.

He said the goal is that by 2016, seven out of 10 Thais will be mentally healthy and seven out 10 children’s analytical and emotional intelligence up to world standards.

The ministry also aims to reduce the suicide rate to 6.5 per 100,000 people, and to ensure regular treatment for  at least eight out of 10 mental health patients.

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