Suicide Grief in Buddhist Thailand
By Prakarn Thomyangkoon, Ph.D., Thailand
The suicide rate in Thailand is about 26 per 100,000 persons a year or one suicide death every two hours. WHO estimates that every suicide death will generate six bereaved people. So, putting it in a figure, here in Thailand we have approximately as many as 24,000 people affected by the suicide of the loved ones each year. Educational activities for the public, including newspaper articles and academic discussions in meetings, began in the last five or six years.
The very first serious start in this field of work began at Mae Sai hospital where the PRAKARN model, group psychotherapy for survivors of suicide loss, took place in 2008. It was discovered that a housewife, who also was a survivor, had launched three consecutive suicide attempts. And the most recent one had sent her to the ICU. Some survivors discontinued their everyday routines. Some were hiding, virtually not going out anymore. Some considered moving out. They experienced mixed feelings of “shame, depression, and guilt.” Suicidal ideas came hand-in-hand with stigma. After six sessions in the PRAKARN model, all of them felt better and the stigma was greatly alleviated. They could engage themselves in social activities, rendering services to others. They devoted themselves and turned into activists, helping out those in need, sharing their experiences and inner strength partly developed by the PRAKARN model. Their hopes lives on to continue doing the good deeds and practicing the Buddhist way of life for their loved ones who have died.
A study of “Impact of Death by Suicide of Psychiatric Patients on Thai Psychiatrists," conducted by Thomyangkoon P. and Leenars A.A., showed that Thai psychiatrists feel sad, depressed, hopelessness, and guilt about suicides and strive harder in postvention roles. Half of them attended the funerals. Most Thai psychiatrists feel better after performing Buddhist meritorious deeds for their former patients. Consultations with their psychiatrists and moral support from their co-workers helped them survive this life crisis.
In Thailand, “Candlelight to Life Club” founded by Dr. Prakarn Thomyangkoon in 2010 is being run by Missis Paporn Sukkasempong as president. She completed a course in the PRAKARN model. Candlelight to Life Club is the first of its kind to extend help to those in need of experience-sharing and inner strength development. Its committee and members are all bereaved.