Depression affects 1.5m Thais

About 1.5 million Thai people, aged over 15 years old, are suffering from depression, permanent secretary for public health Narong Sahametapat said on Friday.

Women are twice as likely as men to be depressed, Dr Narong said.

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According to a ministry study, people living in Bangkok have a 5% chance of being depressed, compared with 2.3% to 2.7% for those outside the capital.

Dr Narong said depression treatment was available at all community hospitals.

The ministry has also trained health volunteers to diagnose people's mental conditions so that they can send those who need help to hospitals.

Vachira Pengchant, director-general of the Department of Mental Health, said the main difficulty with people suffering from depression was that only 29% of them received treatment.

"Some people might not know that they're suffering from depression while others might be against seeing psychiatrists," Dr Vachira said.

He said many depressed patients only needed to take one pill daily and their condition would start to improve within two to four weeks.

In cases where depression is not severe, after taking medication for six months, most patients would be fully treated and would have less chance of becoming depressed again. The chances of the condition reoccurring are 20% to 30%.

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