Thailand’s culture denies mental health problems

In Thailand there is no such thing as mental health problems. To have such a problem would be a great loss of face to the parents of the afflicted person for not being a good parent. This is simply how the Thai people see it. As a result, there are a great number of people in Thailand who need help but wont go for help to save face.

A lot depends on the education of the Thais as to how they would respond to dealing with mental health issues. In Northeast Thailand in an area called Isaan, the bulk of the population has little more than what would be considered an 8th grade education in the USA. The more educated the Thai, the easier it is to accept that mental health problems come from a variety of sources. Assuming it only comes from negligent or abusive parents is seen as wrong, but they do acknowledge it is one of the sources.

If there is a prominent person who is clearly suffering from a mental health problem, it becomes just about the hottest thing in the news even making it to the front page. Recently a doctor in Bangkok was suffering from what could be described as overt mental health problems. In the end it turned out to be a adverse reaction to some non related medication. Once he was off the medication for a few weeks he returned to normal. Depending on what paper you were reading from, it was anything from being possessed by evil spirits, to whatever but never really made mention of mental health except cautiously worded in western papers.

Some of the other problems of mental health come from drug usage, abusive employers and labor practices, and issues related to money problems to name a few. Other sources of problems that contribute to mental health problems are similar around the world.

As for the number of mental health professionals in Thailand, there is a huge shortage. According to Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health with information published in 2005, Thailand could use at least another 800 to 1000 Thai Psychiatrists.

If you live in Thailand and are of western origins, your choices are even less. In Bangkok alone there are probably only 10 to 20 truly qualified non Thai mental health professionals ranging from counselors to Psychologists. In the remainder of Thailand perhaps another 10 or so. If you seek a more focused and intense form of mental health therapy like clinical hypnotherapy you will probably only find 3 or 4 non Thai Clinical Hypnotherapists in all of Thailand.

As for importing psychiatrists from other countries, the Thai labor laws will not allow it. In Thailand only Thais can practice as doctors. As a psychiatrist is essentially a doctor of psychiatry and they frequently hand out medicine, they can forget about working in Thailand. As a psychologist is also a doctor that does not hand out medicine they can get around that law. The same is true for hypnotherapists who hold a doctoral degree in clinical hypnotherapy.

However on the bright side, Thailand is slowly moving to be more accepting about mental health issues. There is at least one western school that provides supplementary training to students who are studying along the lines of mental health.

A few links to western mental health providers in Thailand that actually have websites. There are a few others listed but no websites could be found for them.

Link 1

Link 2

Link 3

One Response to Thailand’s culture denies mental health problems

  1. RE Thailand’s culture denies mental help.

    This was a report that was waiting to be written.
    Maybe the growing Internet population will use on-line therapy
    in their language. However the quality of presentation needs to be a few grades up from the 3 web sites listed.