Mental Health Awareness Month


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The month of May marks 'Mental Health Awareness Month' with the aim of global recognition and acknowledgement about various mental illnesses and disorders. Worldwide, it's certainly evident that over the past 10+ years there has been a willingness to recognise the importance of normalising discussions of mental health, after centuries of shame and misrepresentation.

It's important to educate ourselves and each other, in order to progress to better understanding around the subject and help others that may be suffering to reach out, get the help they need and overcome their battles. Let's aim to be among a society where people don’t think twice about seeking help, therapy or treatment due to the stigma of being fake or weak.

Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization, is

"A state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community."

Whilst anyone can experience poor mental health at some time in their life, it can be difficult to identify those suffering as you cannot typically 'see' physical signs. Mental health looks different on everyone, and healing is not linear. Not only do we have one body, but also one mind. Our mental health is just as important as physical health. 

LIABOX reached out to 3 professionals in the mental health industry; Stephanie - a registered Therapist from Healthy Minds Phuket (based in Phuket & Bangkok), Debora - Clinical Psychologist at Headstart International School, and Sanju - creator of Mental Health App, Sati.

Do you believe there is still a stigma around Mental Health in today's world? How does that differ within Thailand? 

Mental Health on it's own is very complex and has a lot of factors contributing to it. We can look at the Biopsychosocial model which talks about the genetic components, personal thoughts and social and environmental factors that play a role for someone to develop any form of mental health disorders. However Mental Health is still widely stigmatized globally and is one area that is poorly funded.
In Thailand we are still seeing how importance isn't given to Mental Health and how we believe that we are always in control of our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Any occurrence that is unnatural to our beliefs are therefore taken as supernatural. Someone with Schizophrenia is more likely to be taken to a Ghost Doctor, a Temple, rather than a Psychiatrist. This is also because of the low level of awareness of Mental Health Disorders in Thailand.
The way language is used also plays a big role in further stigmatizing Mental Health. For example, the term โรคจิต (rok-jit) actually means Psychosis, however it has been used most as the term for calling someone who is a pervert. The term Ba, or Crazy has also been used to call someone with Mental Health Disorder or we still talk about Psychiatric Hospital as those places for crazy ones. - Sanju

Sadly, there is still stigma around mental health around the world. In Thailand, the stigma revolves around the belief that those suffering from mental issues are weak and don't have the power to get over simple sadness. Most mental health issues are treated with medication and visits to psychiatrists and therapy is not widely used. - Stephanie

The effects of Covid19 on Mental Health?

COVID-19 definitely has an effect on our mental health. Many researches show how COVID-19 has increased the risk of Anxiety and Depression. In Thailand we have seen out the pandemic which has triggered and accelerated the vulnerable communities. Last year the number of suicide recorded was the highest in 18 years at 7.35 per 100,000. - Sanju

It depends on the individual and how they are affected. The main issue has been stress and anxiety caused by uncertainty and fear. People losing their jobs and income, knowing people who are sick or have died, etc. The impact is different depending on the age groups. For children we see that they can be away from their school, friends, and colleagues, staying at home and they can have many questions about the outbreak . Not all children and parents respond to stress in the same way. Kids can experience anxiety, distress, social isolation and this can have short or long term effects on their mental health. For elderly, it can be isolation and solitude as well as fear of contracting the virus. - Stephanie

Mental health awareness amongst men (not common to speak out or seek help) and children in schools (should Thailand be providing education in schools?)

Yes, we do see higher number of men committing suicide than women. Lack of mental health education causes lack of awareness which further drives stigma. However, if we are able to provide studies on mental health, emotional hygiene, and empathy, we can indirectly create a better community within school for children to understand one another more.
Moreover we need to provide counselling and psychological first aid care in both public and private schools to children who might be bullied by their peers or those who might be a victim of sexual harassment. However, at the moment, it seems like there is still a long way to go. - Sanju

We know that in the UK, men are less likely to access therapy than women - only 36% of referrals were for men in 2020. Statistics from the UK show various findings such as 3x as many men die from suicide than women, men report lower levels of life satisfaction, 87% of rough sleepers are men, and men are 3x more likely than women to become dependent on alcohol or frequent drug use. (Source For children, International Schools in Thailand tend to have school counsellors or designated staff that offers mental health support to students. Thai schools do not have this. - Stephanie

Many international schools work with School counselors. School counselor assists students at all levels, from elementary school to college. They act as advocates for students' well-being, and as valuable resources for their educational advancement. School counselors listen to students' concerns about academic, emotional or social problems and may also refer to specialist of mental health in case of need. - Debora

In children, early intervention is extremely important. What are the main signs or changes parents should be looking out for? And next steps to proceed if they would like to seek guidance and help determine whether there are issues or not?

Early intervention is crucial. The most common mental illnesses in teens are: generalized anxiety (excessive worry about everyday matters); social phobias (severe feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity in social settings); depression (persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, and/or emptiness), obsessive compulsory disorder (recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations – obsessions - that make them feel driven to do something repetitively – compulsions). Parents can observe some signs that might show up as changes in their grades, as for example disinterest in friends, or out-of-character irritability. If at least one of those symptoms is present, additional criteria have to be assessed.

Younger children often have ups and downs that affect the way they feel and behave. But sometimes children don’t ‘bounce back’ from the downs, and this starts to affect other parts of their lives. This can be a sign that children are having mental health problems.

If parents notice any of these following signs in their child, and the signs go on for more than a few weeks, it’s important to talk with child and then get professional help. - Debora

How friends and loved ones can help?

Friends and family can definitely help develop a safe space for someone who lives with Mental Health Disorder. Many times it can be hard for us to open up to those closest to us because we fear how they will view us. By just lending a listening ear, and not judging the person can go a long way.
One way is to practice Empathetic Listening. Where you listen to the other person from your heart, and don't take your perspective as the primary source of information. Here is a link in case anyone is interested to know more: - Sanju
There are plenty of sites where people can seek information on MH issues and how to help loved one. If you look up a MH condition, there will be specific ones. For example: - Stephanie
In case of mental health suspicion in children, it is always important to contact your pediatrician who can refer parents to a specialist. It is important to ask your child’s teachers point of view. In many schools, parents may also contact school’s SENCO, which is Special Educational Needs Coordinators and works to raise educational achievement by leading and coordinating provision for pupils with special educational needs. - Debora

Mental Health apps, are they effective?
Emotional Mapping apps can help you track your mood and triggers. It allows you to know yourself more or see what is it that has been triggering for you.
Telepsychotherapy apps can also be useful when it is hard for you to go and see a mental health worker face to face or when your schedule makes it hard for you to plan anything properly. It allows you to connect to a therapist or doctor in the comfort of your safe space.
Nonetheless, nothing is more effective than actually seeing a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist in person. - Sanju

Depending on what you want, 'Calm' and 'Headspace' are very good for relaxation and mindfulness, and for anxiety and stress and for self care. Here is a useful recommended app link with pros and cons  - Stephanie
Thank you to Stephanie, Debora and Sanju for taking the time to answer our questions and be a part of our Mental Health Awareness blog post.

Where to seek help in Thailand // 

Everyone should have the support to ask and access to help when needed.

Ask questions or book a free 20 min consultation with Stephanie of Healthy Minds Phuket HERE
Download Sati App
Mental Health in Children - Psy Dr Debora Previti 
- Available privately. Educational assessment available in case of neurodevelopment disorders. Contact 
Department of Mental Health Thailand (Thai)
Ooca - Talk to a professional from the comfort of your own home
Suicide hotline 1323 or National Suicide Prevention Center via LINE at @jvkkhelpline (Khui Kun)  
Bangkok Hospital Mental Health Department - Chiang Mai, Phuket, Bangkok, Pattaya
Samaritans (Thai & English) - A callback service providing emotional support. 
Helpline 1323 - 24-hour mental health hotline that provides counselling support and information. Chatbot service also available on LINE @147nzgad where you can take a test to measure stress levels, or ways to cope with emotions and anxiety. 
Thai Psychiatric Association
Talk Moment Thailand - Run by a team of psychologists & counsellers 
Support Group Meet Ups - In person support group meet ups run by Mae and Shachee of Inspired Events TH 
Path2Health Foundation - P2H's mission is to generate equal access to healthcare across all of society, for both physical and mental health. 
Childline Thailand - A safe space for children and families suffering at home to reach out without judgement, for mental health support or other areas. Call 1387 (Free, 24 hours)

Resources // 

The MightyA support community of real life people facing health challenges, including personal stories, experiences, and conversations ranging from Mental Health, Chronic Illness, Disabilities and over 600+ topics to browse from. 
Understanding Mental Health 
Bangkok Community Resources, Mental Health 
National Institute of Mental Health 
Protection of Teenage Mental Health during Covid19 
Smiling Mind Au -
Mindfullness app with designated programs for Adults, Youth, Classroom, Workplace, Other Languages

Educational //

Undercover Asia - A Suicide Epidemic Thailand (Watch)
Talking Mental Health - Short Video for Kids (Kindergarten)
Lucy's Blue Day - Short Video for Kids (Primary)
Disney's Pixar: Inside Out - Movie
Teen Mental Health - Short Video
We All Have Mental Health - Short Video (Middle School)
Silver Linings Playbook - Movie
Vogue | Open Minded | Kendell Jenner Opens Up About Anxiety (Watch)
Men - There's No Shame In Taking Care Of Your Mental Health (Watch)
Why Big Boys Don't Cry | TED Talk (Watch) 
A Collection of TED Talks About Mental Health (Watch)
Best Mental Health Podcasts of 2021 (Read & Listen)
Refinery 29 | Mental Health: A Loaded Topic For Asian Millenials (Read)

Inspirational & Educational Mental Health Advocate Instagram accounts to follow //

@mh.advocates // @myselflovesupply // @doodledwellness // @sonaksha // @calm // @myeasytherapy // @enjoybloom // @emotions_therapy // @letstalk.mentalhealth // @mentalhealthfoundation // @fightthroughmentalhealth // @crazyheadcomics
Healthy Minds Phuket on Facebook

Sharing is caring - Please share this post to help others, you never know who might need it. If you have any useful local or international resources you would like to share, please get in touch so we can add it to our list for others. 


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