A surge in youth suicide cases over the past several months requires serious attention from the state and related agencies. Three students jumped to their death on separate occasions in Nakhon Ratchasima province over a three-month period. One was studying at Suranaree University of Technology's medical programme, while the other two, a boy and a girl, were school students.
Before these tragic cases, a 14-year-old student took her own life in her home town of Songkhla at the beginning of the school term in May after her family had trouble paying school fees. Poor communication from a teacher resulted in the ill-fated student wrongly thinking she'd been expelled and she was unable to cope with the trauma.
Data from the Mental Health Department has indicated a significant recent increase in suicidal rates among young people. A 2020-September 2021 survey conducted via the Mental Health Check-in app, covering more than 183,000 young people, showed that 28% experienced stress, 32% were at risk of severe depression and 22% were at risk of being suicidal.
Under certain social conditions, young people generally experience more stress, with some adopting certain unhealthy lifestyles, ie, online game addiction, while socialising less. The lengthy period of online education during the pandemic particularly traumatised many students, and pandemic-related isolation made it more difficult for them to adapt to the absence of peer support.
At the same time, generation gaps, family conflicts, and domestic violence aggravate mental problems that may lead to suicide among this age group. Internet and social media influence, as well as unsafe suicide coverage in the media, are also related to suicide-related behaviour.
Apart from the younger generation, suicide rates have generally increased, up by about 10% in all age groups. Each year about 53,000 suicide attempts are reported in Thailand, with approximately 4,000 deaths. The increase -- which follows global trends -- can generally be found about six months after a crisis.
The pandemic has affected every household in Thailand, with many people losing jobs and subsequently their income. The resulting economic hardship impacting families adds more stress on younger family members.
Given the scale of the issue, the Mental Health Department needs to be proactive and reach out to the private sector and civic networks for help in dealing with the problem. At the national level, the government needs to improve economic conditions so families can make ends meet without much difficulty. It must ensure that all vulnerable groups get due assistance and/or compensation and survive the hardships they face.
It's the duty of the government also to create, or increase, safe learning spaces for the younger generation, not only in the city but also in the provinces, and also encourage them to express themselves while listening to their needs and aspirations.
Moreover, schools and parents need to cooperate closely with the common goal of strengthening the mental well-being of kids.