CHIANG MAI – The Fear of losing face and an inability to express emotion are contributing factors behind Northern Thailand’s status as the country’s suicide capital, a mental health expert said on Tuesday.
Northern Thailand has had the highest suicide rate in Thailand for 10 consecutive years, with Chiang Mai, home to almost two million people, reporting a suicide rate of 14 for every 100,000 people, the highest in the region.
Dr Paritat Silpakit, deputy director of Suanprung Psychiatric Hospital in Chiang Mai revealed the findings from a study by the hospital in the lead-up to World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept 10, Thai Rath reported.
Dr Paritat said there were 3,958 suicides in Thailand last year. The national suicide rate was six in every 100,000 people, or around 11 deaths each day. The global suicide mortality rate is 16 for every 100,000 people.
The research showed cultural factors in the upper North contributed to the high suicide rates in the region, Dr Paritat said.
Northern Thais fear “loss of face” and are reluctant to talk about emotions or express themselves, he added.
“When they can not find a way out of a problem, they begin to develop Major Depressive Disorder. And when they become a person with MMD, 80% are at risk of committing suicide,” the doctor said.
The highest suicide rates in Northern Thailand were found to be among people aged between 15 and 39. Other factors increasing risk of suicide were problems related to health and personal finance, he added.
Dr Paritat is a director at the Chiang Mai branch of the Samaritans Club, a charity that provides telephone counselling services for people suffering from mental disorders.
The club is working with community hospitals in 25 districts of Chiang Mai to extend their services to more people with MMD to help prevent suicides, he added.
By Geoff Thomas