By THE NATION
The move is a response to the needs of 64 per cent of parents who reportedly suffer from high stress and discouragement while raising their children.
Mental Health Department director-general Dr Boonreung Traireungworawat recently visited the institute to check on its progress.
He said the facility – a national centre with expertise in providing care for children with developmental issues – had treated 52,000 such children last year, or about 300 per day.
Among the young patients, he said 60 per cent – or about 30,000 – had the three most commonly found developmental conditions: autism, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and cerebral palsy. In a bid to help the children feel more comfortable and calm, the facility’s outpatient ward was decorated like a house and steps were cut to crowding in the waiting room.
A special patient care unit was also added so the children and parents could rest while the youngsters underwent treatment and preparation for looking after themselves in daily life and entering the education system, he said.
The children’s condition directly affected their parents – who take care and aid them in all aspects of daily life. The parents’ stress was high due to expenses, the high attention required for caring and arguments with – or even separation from – spouses. Some people developed depression to the point of being suicidal, said Boonreung.
Among the parents, 22 per cent were single mothers, he added.
The department set up a clinic to provide mental healthcare for the parents. It has been a big help and had partially contributed to the improved care for the children, he said, adding that two-thirds of the children with ADHD could be cured or had much better control. He said such clinics could be implemented at all psychiatric hospitals, where they could help boost the at-home caregivers’ mental health, which would in turn contribute to patients’ better care.
Institute director Dr Dusadee Juengsirakulwit said the clinic would provide extra mental health services to the parents of children with special needs.
They would focus on the parents with complicated issues of severe stress and depression or were at risk of suicide.
Dusadee said that the parents of autistic children were often stressed and bored from the children’s lack of communication, complete ignorance of their environment, screaming and self-harming. Adding to stress was the lack of sufficient income to cover expenses, while some became estranged from their partners. Parents of autistic children generally suffer from mental health issues more often than their peers whose children had ADHD, she said.
The latter suffered from stress due to worries over their ADHD children’s academic performance, aggressive behaviour and relationship conflicts.
After the parents got the help they needed, they were in turn better able to ensure their children were in complete compliance with taking medication as per their doctor’s prescriptions, Dusadee said.
She said that 96 per cent of children with cerebral palsy could attend co-education schooling or specialised programmes and the centre had treated 300 parents who had suffered high stress from taking care of their children with cerebral palsy.
She said the institute would be sharing their experiences and lessons in caring for parents of children with special needs at an international conference in early August.