Rising suicide rate worries experts

Psychologists are concerned about the rising number of depression-related suicides in the country and are calling on vulnerable people to reach out in times of need.

Amporn Benjaponpithak, director general of the Department of Mental Health, said at a recent event to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, which fell on September 10, that “committing suicide indicates poor mental health.”

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

“This is the highest rate in 17 years,” Dr Amporn said. The causes can be multiple and complex, and the effect grows larger over time.

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

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

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

Dr Nattakorn Jampathiong, director of the Galya Rajanagarinda Institute, said people who kill themselves or threaten to do so are no longer a distant problem. Suicide can happen to anyone, he says.

“Suicide attempts don’t happen immediately,” he said. “The cause is usually related to stress, caused by mental illness, economic recession and loneliness which can accumulate over 1-2 years.”

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

Based on his analysis, the suicide rate 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 who receive treatment do so, he said.

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