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An academic team has published a second statement about Covid-19 related suicide attempts after the first became controversial. It underscores its call for the government and society to find more inclusive policies to control the outbreak.

On 29 April, 7 researchers on the impact from Covid-19 pandemic on the urban poor released another statement after wide criticism of their previous statement which called for the Thai government to take action to decrease the number of suicide cases relating to hardships caused by anti-pandemic measures.

It emphasizes that the previous statement was merely a “statement on the collected data”, not a report of research results. The team released their findings in order to indicate how dire the situation currently is among the poor. They insist on calling for society and the government to pay more attention to those less fortunate when implementing outbreak control policies.

“Although the outbreak of Covid-19 put great difficulties in the way of research data collection in the field, we also clearly recognize that the impact of Covid-19 and the management of the problem by the state impacts the urban poor that we are studying intensely. The research team therefore gathered information on the problems that the urban poor are facing from various measures to contain the outbreak.”

“The collection of data on suicides presented in the paper emphasizes only cases where it was specified that there was a connection to the Covid virus and state assistance.  So we did not collect data on suicides for other causes.”

The research team is funded by Thailand Science Research and Innovation (TSRI) and has been conducting research about changes among the poor in urban society since July 2019. They decided to publish their findings last week, claiming that 38 suicides or attempted suicides during 1-21 April were related to the hardships imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the statement became controversial. Some showed empathy at the high suicide rate reported in the news, while some were sceptical about the academic standpoint and advocacy. Some who misunderstood that the statement was a research report were frustrated at the lack of proven academic methodology.

Dr Kiatipoom Wongrajit, Director-General of the Department of Mental Health (DMH), responded to the research team’s first statement by pointing out that the reason for a person committing suicide is a complex matter. So data collected solely from news clippings cannot truly represent the actual situation. Discussing the findings without a literature review or other mental health research could cause misunderstanding.

Dr Kiatipoom said that the most common factors in suicide attempts are relationships, alcohol abuse, physical illness, mental illness and economic problems. However, the Department expected above-average suicide cases in 2020 in response to psychological mechanisms during the crisis. It also expects economic factors to become more prevalent in suicide attempts.

The DMH database shows that the total number if suicide cases between 20 March and 25 April 2020 is 3 times higher than the same period in 2019 (605 to 191).

Previously, the researchers suggested that the government should be aware of the suicide situation aggravated by inefficient and insufficient social security policies. It suggested an emergency hotline for those in dire situations so that the authorities can grant immediate help.

In March and April, Thailand experiences surge in Covid control-related suicide cases via media reports. Economic factors are the most common reason reported in news.

On 30 April, many media reports that a 19 years old women hanged herself to death in Bangkok. She left a self-drawing portrait of the Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha along with a letter complaining about the life struggle which the government plays a part in it.

The police said that the dead woman has recieved the 5,000 baht ad-hoc state monetary support already. (source: Matichon)

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