Thailand risks 'spike in depression' amid lack of psychiatrists
A severe shortage of mental health professionals in Thailand is leaving many millions suffering from depression and other psychological disorders.
The latest indicator of this was the October 6 shooting in Nong Bua Lamphu province, where a mentally disabled former cop massacred 36 people, including many very young children.
“Without more mental health professionals added to our public health system, Thailand is at risk of seeing more psychiatric patients being left untreated, as well as a spike in people suffering from depression,” the Department of Mental Health warned on Monday. “The economic disparity in different regions of Thailand is also an obstacle in distributing health professionals to cover all areas.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 1.5 million people in Thailand suffer from depression, which can contribute to suicide. Stress-related to the Covid-19 pandemic has also pushed the numbers up, records show.
However, as of July 2022, Thailand had only registered 845 psychiatrists and 1,037 psychologists, which works out to 1.28 psychiatrists and 1.57 psychologists for every 100,000 people.
This is significantly lower than the world’s average of 10.15 mental health professionals for every 100,000 people.
Thailand is not alone in facing these problems. Other countries in Southeast Asia also suffer a severe lack of mental health professionals.
For instance, Malaysia has 1.21 psychiatrists and 0.56 psychologists for every 100,000 people, while the ratio in the Philippines is even lower at 0.22 psychiatrists and 0.08 psychologists per 100,000 people.
The only exception is Singapore, which has the highest ratio at 4.7 mental health professionals per 100,000 people, which the department puts down to a higher per capita income.
According to WHO’s 2022 World Mental Health Report, an eighth of the world population is living with mental health problems and at least one in 100 deaths is suicide. The most worrying trend is that eight out of 100 people who kill themselves are in the 15-29 age range.
To combat this, WHO is urging countries to boost their spending on this sector, so mental health problems do not become a more widespread problem.