World Mental Health Day

Focus on: Thailand

Thailand is one of Southeast Asia’s most popular holiday destinations, attracting many British visitors who visit for sunshine, culture and culinary adventure. It is also a place which many British expats call home.

In the time that I have been working as a mental capacity solicitor, I have come across several examples of British individuals who lack mental capacity in Thailand. Typically, they have a sudden and unexpected loss of capacity while on holiday, for example through stroke or head injury. I have also encountered individuals who already lack capacity to a certain degree but decide to move to Thailand out of choice.

It is possible to prepare for a potential decline in mental capacity by making a power of attorney in Thailand, appointing someone to act on your behalf. It is also possible for a guardian to be appointed by the courts in Thailand, where a person lacks the mental capacity to appoint someone to act as their attorney. There are a few firms across Thailand who are able to help, offering assistance from English-speaking lawyers. Access to information about these topics for the English speaker is particularly difficult, however.

Thailand has a well-developed healthcare system which is acknowledged for providing a good standard of treatment. Universal healthcare was introduced in 2002 for Thai citizens and more recently, the Mental Health Act (2008) put mental health policies into law.

World Health Organisation (WHO) figures for mental healthcare provision in Thailand in 2011 revealed the number of psychiatrists per 100,000 population at 0.44, a figure considerably lower than western countries although ahead of many other Southeast Asian countries. More recent figures for 2014 show the same measure standing at 0.87, a significant increase.

By way of comparison, below is the rate of psychiatrists per 100,000 population in nearby countries for both years:

        2011   2014

Myanmar                        0.09      0.29

Cambodia:                     0.23      N/A     

Philippines:                    0.38      0.46

Malaysia                        0.83      0.76

Vietnam:                        1.01      0.91

Of the countries listed above, Malaysia and Myanmar also have standalone mental health laws, although those in Myanmar date to 1912.

The data points towards significant progress for mental health provision in Thailand, especially in comparison to neighbouring countries. The stand-alone mental health legislation has no doubt assisted greatly in enabling the country to progress its mental health provision.

World Mental Health Day gives us the opportunity to consider mental health around the world and participate in the movement for positive change, at home and overseas. It is observed annually on 10 October.