Last week, the hashtag #UrboyTJ appeared on Twitter after famous rapper Jirayut "Urboy TJ" Paloprakarn disappeared. Music fans and his friends were worried because he vanished after he posted on social media that he suffered from depression, was bipolar and was burnt out. In that post, Jirayut believed that nobody listened to him. It is possible he may have harmed himself because his post said: "I did something that I should not have done, but it was not successful." Fortunately, he returned safely and decided to receive treatment at a hospital.
Jirayut revealed in a TV interview in 2020 that he had depression. He said he had had a rough childhood due to his parents' separation and neglect. He had been through a lot of difficulties before becoming a successful singer/songwriter with the popular hip-hop trio 3.2.1, under the Kamikaze music label. When members of 3.2.1 decided not to renew a contract with Kamikaze, that triggered his depression. The incident happened in 2016 -- a time when not many Thai people were aware of depression. Jirayut learned about depression after Pataradanai "Koen" Setsuwan, a singer with K-otic, told Jirayut that he may have depression and should see a psychiatrist. Pataradanai also confessed to Jirayut that he, too, had depression and had received treatment before.
According to Chulalongkorn Hospital, it is estimated that 1.5 million Thai people suffer from depression, which causes 4,000 deaths each year. The case of Jirayut has raised awareness of depression among Thais. People who have depression now share their experiences on social media. Those with depression say they often feel hidden, that their parents or relatives do not want to admit they have children or relatives with the illness. It is often believed that people suffering from depression just want attention, so their condition is not taken seriously. After being ignored, people suffering from depression said they turned to thoughts of harm. This made me realise that it is important to pay attention if someone tells you they are depressed.
However, after reading comments from people with depression, I felt confused because they have different opinions about how they want to hear people talk to them. One comment said that a patient with depression does not want to hear a stranger complimenting them for a beautiful smile or telling them that tomorrow will be a beautiful day. Patients prefer love and care from people close to them, not from strangers.
Some patients disagree with this comment. One patient said that when she posted on Twitter that she wanted to die, one of her acquaintances sent her a message saying she was waiting to see photos taken by the patient. The acquaintance also added the comment that she had just eaten some delicious pizza. The patient then decided to try that pizza and did not commit suicide. The patient said she felt thankful to that acquaintance. Another patient said she likes to hear compliments even from strangers because it helps her feel loved and cared for by others.
As a person who knows a couple of people suffering from depression, I searched online to find the dos and dont's concerning people suffering from depression. Asst Prof Dr Somboon Hataiyusuk, a lecturer at the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital at Mahidol University, advises on Mahidol Channel Podcast that we should not tell patients "don't think too much" because patients do not want to think too much, but a chemical imbalance in their brains causes them to do so. Thai people often say sue sue or keep fighting, but the psychiatrist said it is a negative phrase. Patients feel that they have fought for so long that they are too exhausted to go on. Other phrases that we should not say are "don't be discouraged. It is not a big deal" and "why cry over such a small thing?".
Asst Prof Dr Somboon advises people should listen to patients with compassion. I believe this is the key. Having someone to listen to them is what many patients need. We may not really understand them, but we can listen to them. The psychiatrist also said if caregivers are close to patients, physical contact such as hand squeezing, shoulder pats or hugs are helpful. Asst Prof Dr Somboon asks people to not think that patients want attention and should care for and treat them as human beings. Don't pressure patients with any expectations. And people who take care of patients should ask them to join in activities such as puzzle games, sports and travelling.
One of his former patients said the chemical imbalance in the brain made her think that she had no one and she had no sense of self-worth. Thus, people with depression need to see psychiatrists to receive medication or treatment.
Jirayut also said in the interview that after he received medication, he felt better. Unfortunately, many patients experience a relapse. Hence, depression does not affect only patients. Many caregivers have also said that they end up feeling exhausted because patients can be very gloomy and negative.
I think both patients and their caregivers should see a psychiatrist together so they can share their stories and understand what each other goes through. To overcome depression, patients and their caregivers have to believe they are in the same team and work things out together.
Suwitcha Chaiyong is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.