The impact of coronavirus on people’s mental health has become a serious issue that needs addressing rapidly as incidents of self-harm, suicides, and domestic abuse continue to rise across Thailand.
The issue was recently addressed by the Thai Government’s Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration. Spokesperson, Dr. Taweesilp Visanuyothin said they are “aware” of the situation and are “searching for solutions”.
But, is that good enough?
There are a number of reasons that people may resort to self-harm or physical abuse of others during the covid-19 lockdown.
For starters, there is a blanket nationwide ban on alcohol. The reasoning behind the ban – that it will prevent social gatherings – makes some sense. However, alcohol is also a release for many people, a way to unwind at the end of the day.
Banning alcohol sales tells the public that the government cannot trust you to have a drink in your house without inviting half of the neighborhood over to join you.
For many people, a glass of wine or a bottle of beer is a way to destress after a long day and is essential for unwinding and relaxing.
There is also the serious issue of the 5,000 baht government handout that excluded millions, leaving them struggling to buy the most basic of necessities.
Financial stress is one of the main reasons cited for many of the suicides that have occurred over the past few weeks. For many people, the token sum of 5,000 baht per month was essential for survival.
But, it did not arrive for so many people. One example is employees of the massage industry who did not qualify for the handout due to the nature of their jobs.
The same applied to the millions of informal workers that were quickly released from their positions or had their working hours significantly reduced following the state of emergency across the country.
For others, it was the closure of their businesses, their livelihoods that drove them to self-harm or suicide. Thousands of businesses have now been closed for over a month.
Many Thai citizens blame the government such as the tragic case of a young mother who killed herself because she was rejected the 5,000 baht handout and couldn’t afford milk for her baby.
While restrictions are necessary to prevent the spread of covid-19, there must be a balance to provide assistance and reassurance for people who are suffering from depression.
Rather than banning alcohol sales completely, there could be a limit imposed on alcohol purchases.
Rather than neglecting certain workers or industries, the government needs to speed up the process of approving cash handouts and make it more widely available to the general public.
Rather than simply ordering businesses to close, the government must provide alternative channels and guidelines for SMEs to continue generating turnover.
Most importantly, there must be hope for the millions who have suddenly found themselves staring into an unknown and frightening future. A long-term strategy to provide job opportunities and financial support has to be top of the list of priorities for the government.
Anyone who feels lonely, depressed, or suicidal can call the Mental Health Department on 1323 (Thai) or the Samaritans of Thailand on 02-713-6793 (Thai) or 02-713-6791 (English). Hotline are operational 24 hours a day.
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