1 in 10 city folk 'have issues' with depression
Thousands of communities in Bangkok will be mobilised to help the Department of Mental Health raise awareness about bipolar disorder, depression and other areas of concern as national surveys show more than one in 10 residents need assistance.
Some 2,068 communities throughout the capital ranging from condominium projects to slums have been chosen as areas in which to strengthen the ability of community leaders to promote mental health, according to department chief Boonruang Triruangworawat.
The policy was formulated after the Ministry of Public Health's five-year national survey on mental health in 2013 confirmed a number of worrisome trends.
It showed that 11.5% of Bangkok residents aged over 18 (520,000 people) experience mental health problems including bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. The registered population in the city at that time was 5.6 million.
As such, the actual number is expected to be higher as Bangkok's true population is estimated to be close to double this. It is not clear how serious some of the conditions are.
"People living in urban environments are at risk of developing mental problems as they face not only economic challenges but also stress-induced routines such as traffic jams and pollution," Mr Boonruang said.
He said the department's 13th mental health centre, located in Bang Rak district, will work with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) in providing technical knowledge to BMA-affiliated agencies as they tackle the problem.
Community leaders will get special training so they can detect people who might be struggling and connect them with the appropriate support and resources.
If successful, the project will serve as a national model to help people in other urban areas.
The programme was launched last year with a focus on elderly people in the capital, said Thaweesak Siriratrekha, director of the 13th mental health centre.
Designed to correspond with the lifestyle of elderly people living in urban environments, it has attracted 235 participants so far.
Each will be given eight weeks to improve their skills in assisting those with mental health problems.
Mr Thaweesak said other surveys showed participants were happier after joining the programme.
The city's elderly population now stands at around 900,000, accounting for 18% of all Bangkok residents.
The findings of one survey suggested that 61% of them feel bored, anxious or depressed for weeks on end while 97% are routinely homebound and have not joined any of the officially registered 354 clubs for the elderly.