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What is the State of Mental Health in Thailand?

Despite its name as the Land of Smiles, Thailand is facing a mental health crisis. As we’ll see, pressure from family, the country’s culture and social norms, social media, and a lack of support are all related to Thailand’s high suicide rates.

Mental health is seriously overlooked in Thailand. Many still see mental health problems as signs of a weak state of mind. The widespread stigma surrounding mental health revolves around the belief that mental issues originate from an inability to get over simple sadness.

But, in reality, the people suffering are often strong and choose not to share their feelings. Instead, they choose to deal with their feelings all by themselves. Yet, the accumulated negative feelings can’t hold for long, and soon cause anxiety or even depression.

In this Pacific Prime Thailand article, we will go over some possible causes of mental health issues and rocket-high suicide rates in Thailand. Let’s start by looking into the different aspects of the crisis one by one.

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Possible Causes of Poor Mental Health

There’s no real way to pin down the causes of mental issues unless it relates directly to a particular event, in which an alteration in personality can be observed. In most cases, mental issues develop in a person over time without any obvious triggering event.

This makes mental issues a hard subject to study. That being said, there have been numerous studies on the subject. Concluding from the data available, the following factors are believed to be the most common causes of mental issues in the country.

Pressure from Family

Depending on the personalities of the parents, the parenting approach could be authoritarian or authoritative. The former is very critical of the child’s career path and often pressurizes the child with extreme measures. Children raised under this method are proven to have elevated suicide tendencies.

Teenagers and young adults in Thailand have a lot of expectations thrown at them by their families. Especially if they are from a poor background, the pressure is on them from a young age to do well in school so they will be able to get into a top college and provide for the family.

But providing for the family is no easy task for a Thai. A typical Thai household has multi-generational units, where the parents and their children, as well as the grandparents, are living under the same roof. Expenses for such a big family are not to be sniffed at.

Culture and Society

Thailand has a strong cultural stigma surrounding mental illnesses. They are regarded as ‘minor personal problems’, and those who suffer from mental illness are looked down upon. This can lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment, worsening of symptoms, and discouragement in seeking help.

Having to sacrifice oneself for society as a whole truly adheres to the central value of hierarchy in Theravada Buddhism. This societal culture imposes immense stress and anxiety on a person and weakens their mentality, and is therefore detrimental to workplace mental health too.

Family-wise, Thai families are patriarchal. Men shoulder a lot of responsibilities as a result. Men have the mentality of ‘manly self-reliance’, associating mental health illnesses with helplessness and weakness which do not conform to traditional masculine gender norms.

Complying with these norms causes men to internalize their feelings, hindering their decisions in help-seeking and emotional control. They are likely to result in maladaptive coping strategies, as evident in the fact that 39% of marriages in Thailand end in divorce, with reported domestic violence.

What’s more, there is a dominant Thai notion of ‘Mai pen rai’, which emphasizes not making a big deal of anything. Paired with misconceptions about depression across generations, adolescents are discouraged from talking about mental health matters, which are considered to be a big deal and disturb family harmony.

Teenage Psychological Problems

From 2020-2021, over 10,000 teenagers called the ‘Mental Health Hotline 1323’ to get mental health support. The top three problems are stress, relationship problems, and depression.

Bullying behaviors are also believed to contribute significantly to psychological distress among teenagers. 1 in 5 Thais experienced bullying in school and 1 in 10 Thais experienced it outside school. While bullying is the culpable factor, the victim’s inappropriate coping strategies also need to be addressed.

According to the MHPSS 2022 report from UNICEF, 27.4% of Thai adolescents aged 13-15 reported alcohol consumption to tackle psychological distress. A quarter of them also turned to drug usage such as tobacco or even marijuana.

It’s important to assert boundaries established. You have your own go and no-go zones, which you use to evaluate whether to continue or distance a relationship. Being able to handle relationships is crucial for your well-being. Always remember, your mental health and self-worth are invaluable.

 Social Media

The popularity of social media platforms has allowed people to stay connected in a way that was never available before. There have been a lot of positives that have come out of social media. However, the advent of social media has led to a couple of negatives as well.

Cyberbullying and online harassment have risen exponentially since the inception of social media. Social media addiction is ubiquitous in Thai society, which increases teenagers’ exposure to sending/receiving mean text messages or hurtful social media posts.

Young adults watching people get famous through podcasts and Vlogs may feel like this is an easy route to success. However, they may lack the skills or luck needed to become successful, which hurts their self-esteem and causes depression upon failure.

Existing phenomena in Thailand

High Suicide Rates

Suicide is the third-highest cause of fatalities among teens in Thailand. Bangkok Post stated that 7.99% of youths are at risk of suicide. According to the 2021 Global School-based Student Health Survey, 17% of teenagers aged 13-17 are vulnerable to and 15% attempted suicide at least once.

Males are more susceptible to suicide than women with 12.27 suicides per 100,000 men compared to 2.68 per 100,000 women. Among adolescents, suicide is the leading cause of death, with over 800 children and young adults aged between 10 and 29 taking their own lives in 2019, reported UNICEF.

Lack of Support

Thailand has a scarcity of both psychologists and psychiatrists, with an average of only 1.57 and 1.28 licensed practitioners to 100,000 people respectively, according to New Mandala. The numbers are nearly 8 times lower than the global average.

These mental professionals are more accessible in private hospitals, or medical centers in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. Hence, professional mental health services are hardly accessible to low-income workers and rural residents.

The government, in reaction to this prevalent problem, has set up an enormous fund of about THB ฿690 million. Still, people with mental health issues may endure up to six months of waiting before accessing counseling services. Treatment might be too late by the time patients can be assisted.

Suggested Solutions to the Problem

If you feel like you need help with your mental illness, whether you’re a local or an expat, there are a few places that can help you deal with your problems. From English-speaking suicide hotlines to private hospitals, you can always reach out for help without facing a language barrier

Other than that, there are a few things you can do to help ease your mental pressure:

  • Engage in thinking exercises: It is an easy and cost-free technique to combat negative thinking, which can significantly impact your day-to-day life. Thought exercises can help minimize stress and enhance overall well-being.
  • Assert your boundaries: You have your own go and no-go zones, which you use to evaluate whether to continue or distance a relationship. Being able to handle relationships is crucial for your well-being. Always remember, your mental health and self-worth are invaluable.
  • Mental wellness retreat: Appropriate stress relief is necessary from time to time. If your budget allows, it is an effective way of dealing with stress. Thailand has plenty of places you can go, just for a simple unwind, or an enjoyable spa treatment if you want to. It works wonders every time!


Taking care of your mental health as an expat in a foreign country can be challenging. Language barriers, cultural differences, and being away from loved ones can make you feel stressed and overwhelmed whether you frequently travel for work or live in Thailand.

The good news is that mental health services are available to help you achieve a state of balance. That being said, mental health services in Thailand don’t come cheap, especially if you go to private service providers where there are shorter wait times and better amenities.

Fortunately, you don’t have to pay out of pocket if you have a comprehensive health insurance plan. Reach out to an experienced, expat-focused broker like Pacific Prime Thailand to help you find the right plan for your needs and budget, and support you throughout your insurance journey.

Contact us to get started today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Thailand provide mental health services?

There are a lot of mental health services provisions in Thailand. From mental health hotlines to private hospitals, you can always reach out for help whenever needed. They offer non-judgemental advice and prescribe medication for more serious problems.

Does Thailand have enough psychiatrists to treat people with mental health problems?

A shortage of psychiatrists is always a problem in Thailand. There are existing reports that show Thailand has just an average of 1.28 psychiatrists providing services to 100,000 people, significantly lower than the global average. They are also barely accessible in public hospitals and rural areas.

What are the most common mental health issues in Thailand?

The most common mental health issues are anxiety and depression, causing a high suicide rate in Thailand. It is crucial to seek help from professionals to maintain a healthy mentality.

What age groups in Thailand are suffering the most from poor mental health?

People who have poor mental health are usually aged around 20. It is commonly needed for them to meet strict academic expectations from parents, and be ready to provide for their multi-generational family.

Is mental health taboo in Thailand?

The topic of mental health is never openly discussed as it is considered a disturbance of harmony from familial and societal perspectives. Cultural stigma also equates mental health illnesses to the incapability to cope with emotions.

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Eric is an experienced content writer specializing in writing creative copies of marketing materials including social media posts, advertisements, landing pages, and video scripts.

Since joining Pacific Prime, Eric was exposed to a new world of insurance. Having learned about insurance products extensively, he has taken joy and satisfaction in helping individuals and businesses manage risks and protect themselves against financial loss through the power of words.

Although born and raised in Hong Kong, he spent a quarter of his life living and studying in the UK. He believes his multicultural experience is a great asset in understanding the needs and wants of expats and globe-trotters.

Eric’s strengths lie in his strong research, analytical, and communication skills, obtained through his BA in Linguistics from the University of York and MSc in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from the University of Bristol.

Outside of work, he enjoys some me-time gaming and reading on his own, occasionally going absolutely mental on a night out with friends.
Eric Chung