Researchers collecting news reports of suicide cases have found 38 cases related to Covid-19 control policies in April. The cases were related to economic pressures stemming from public health policies in response to the virus. More immediate help and a properly managed resumption of economic activity are needed.
Passengers on a bus in Bangkok (File Photo)
On 24 April, a statement on research on the urban poor was released showing that 38 suicide or attempted suicide cases during 1-21 April were related to the hardships imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The research by 7 academics and funded by Thailand Science Research and Innovation (TSRI) states that the combination of strict public health policies such as travel restrictions and shutting businesses, and insufficient economic safety net measures are causing people to take their own lives.
The researchers collected the figures from news reports. The average age is 40, and of the 38 cases, 27 are men and 11 are women. 35 are employees or self-employed and 3 are employers. 10 attempted suicide but survived.
“From the facts …, it can be observed that those who are severely affected by state policies and measures are employees and the self-employed and especially the urban poor who were made jobless but who have not received timely help or remedial action from the state. Small-scale entrepreneurs have also been severely affected.
“Also, most suicide cases are those of working age who have an important role as the main support responsible for the expenses of their families. Thus, when they face immediate unemployment or having no work, it leads to tremendous pressure on both them and their families.” statement says.
The researchers suggest that government should be aware of the suicide situation aggravated by inefficient and insufficient social security policies. It should set up an emergency hotline for those in dire situations so that the authorities can grant immediate help.
The government also needs to loosen the availability of the ‘rao mai ting kan’ (Nobody will be left behind) fund, the ad-hoc financial aid of 5,000 baht per month, so that the money is delivered to affected people more inclusively and promptly.
The government needs to reopen some economic activities while keeping disease control management in place. Resuming activities like markets and small-to-medium sized businesses will allow people and their families to make a living. Researchers believe that systematic and safe management can be achieved with the cooperation of the state, the private sector and civil society.
Lastly, government must refrain from implementing laws and measures that cause people needless suffering, such as creating difficulties for philanthropists giving away food, arresting homeless people for being outside during the curfew or imposing different standards for similar offences.
“It is certain that dealing with Covid-19 is something that is unavoidably necessary. But at the same time, the use of measures to handle this problem ought to be aimed at enabling everyone to overcome the problem. The government should not use policies, laws or measures so intensively that they create problems and difficulties for people to the point where they are unable to make as living or find income to support themselves and their families,” the researchers suggest.
The text in Thai of the researchers’ statement can be found at https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/04/87356