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Rising suicide rate worries experts

Psychologists are concerned about the rising number of suicides linked with depression in the country, and are calling on the vulnerable to reach out in times of need.

Amporn Benjaponpithak, director-general of the Department of Mental Health, told a recent event marking World Suicide Prevention Day, which fell on Sept 10, that “committing suicide indicates poor mental health”.

Suicide has now reached record levels in the country. Figures from the department and National Suicide Prevention Centre put the rate of suicide in 2020 at 7.35:100,000 population, she said. The rate increased to 7.38:100,000 population last year, she said. On average, 4,820 people commit suicide in the country per year, she noted.

“This is the highest rate in the past 17 years,” Dr Amporn said. Causes can be multiple and complex, and the effect gathers momentum over time.

She said the department has set up a suicide prevention hotline and is providing various measures, some via the Helpers of Psychiatric Emergency task force, to help on social media. In the past 11 months, 1,554 people, or 141 people a month on average, have called the hotline to speak about taking their lives, she said.

Officials made follow-up calls and found that 74% changed their minds and wanted to live, she said.

Online, the KhuiKun and Sati mobile apps can provide advice to those who may need help, she said.

Dr Nattakorn Jampathiong, director of Galya Rajanagarinda Institute, said people taking their lives or threatening to do so are no longer a remote issue. Suicide can happen to anyone, he said.

“Suicide attempts do not happen immediately,” he said. “The cause is usually related to stress, caused by mental illness, economic recession and loneliness which can accumulate for 1–2 years.”

Dr Prakarn Thomyangkoon, from the Psychiatric Association of Thailand, said suicides are often linked to depression.

Based on its analysis, the suicide ratio between men and women is 3:1, he said.

About 20% of people with untreated depression tend to commit suicide, while only 0.14% of those receiving treatment do so, he said.

Dr Nuttorn Pityaratstian, director of the Thai Society for Affective Disorders, said people should offer comfort to those who are depressed.

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