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How Thailand uses Mental Health to Heal.

ได้อย่างเสียอย่าง (dai yang sia yang)
Translation: You have to lose something to get another thing.
Meaning: You can’t make an omelette without breaking any eggs

Thailand’s values of honor and hospitality led me to tears. I wondered, “How can a nation that does not have mental health budget give so much to us?” It felt undeserving to receive the love and compassion when I traveled to Thailand to study abroad program from California State University Long Beach. I took this class in May of 2017. We visited many facilities, each one very unique, yet very similar to mental health in America. In order to break the stigma, we must acknowledged cultural differences within mental health, and to gain more knowledge about other cultures. All of us do not see mental health the same way, and it was helpful to see some similarities and differences in Thailand.

Mahidol University

We arrived to our first destination, Mahidol Univeristy. We went to the department of epidemiology to learn about mental health issues that are currently prevalent in Thailand. Each region had different issues, highlighting the importance to be mindful of where a clients live. They also made us a yummy lunch.

Child and Adolescscent Mental Health Rajanagarindra Institute

The children’s clinic was very colorful and fun.

The way they do mental health here is very similar to America (play therapy, adaptable chairs that would assist the client to focus better, etc.).

Srithanya Hospital

For one, I loved how they use positive psychology to term the rooms. This is one difference I noticed, as I have yet to see psychiatric hospitals have positive terms fro their treatment rooms. A similarity would be how they use creative arts as a form of treatment with their play therapy room. It was filled with toys and other therapeutic objects.

For vocational services, they have many ways they train patients to enhance their life skills. Our guide shared a story of how one quiet patient began to engage with others and build their self esteem due to being trained to work as a baker. They are trained by seasoned workers that have been mentored before them. They were so thankful for the skills they learned while being in the hospital, and it helps them find jobs upon discharge.

We have this similar in America, however, patients usually do not train the patients. From my experience in mental health in the host setting, they tend to do gardening, learning, and maybe helps with the fashion center. In Thailand they had a wider range of options (car wash, florist, bakery, coffee shop, art,).

Don Chompoo Primary Care Unit.

This was a community mental health unit for promotion and prevention programming. They serve the elderly, and we were greeted by celebration and dancing. They were so happy to meet us and taught us some dance moves. This was a pleasant site, because the elderly I work with tend to ambulate using a wheel chair most of the time. To see older adults healthy, happy and active showed me the importance of recreation therapy. They had this really cool exercise rope in which two ropes were looped into a coconut (forgot to take a photo of it!) To use it, two people had to stand facing each other, holding the ends of the rope, and they had to extend out their arms at the right timing to transfer the coconut from one person to another.  Trying it was a workout! Even though they did not have a budget for their mental health program, they continued to give to us snacks and gifts.

Wat Thamkrabok (Substance Abuse treatment program)

This is known as the most unusual form of rehab in the entire world. It is famous for having clients purge their drug and alcohol addiction using herbs made by monks. They purge through a grand ceremony. Those who went through their purge surrounded the newbies, using musical instruments to create a comforting melody. The purge lasted several minutes, and I loved that the ones purging are not alone. It felt weird to watch, but comforting at the same time. While playing the instruments, they sang along the lines of “You can do it, You can let go. You can purge.” They wanted to encourage each other, and I loved the community they developed.  It was a beautiful thing to see such support. Afterwards there was a steam room filled with lemon grass to provide a break for the individuals who participated in the purging ceremony.

The programing is filled with mindfulness, as there is time to meditate, work, chanting, exercise and support.

The biggest takeaway I received was the symbolism of purging. Its a forceful term to use, and I like it better than saying “let it go.” This stuck with me when I went to bed that night, and I decided to do my own spiritual purge. I needed to let go of things in my life and not pick it back up. This experience has led me to heal more in my life journey.

We visited many places over our two week stay. Every time we were welcomed and honored as guests. It was as if we were nobles. During our experiences to different facilities, we had a few conference presentations and got to ask questions on how the way they conduct treatment.

Are you aware of mental health programs in other counties? How about our country in America? What has helped you and/or family member? And, what would you want to change?

(1) Comment

  1. Mental health services in Thailand sound really fascinating. I liked reading about the coconut game as well as the purging. Glad to find out that Thailand puts a value on proper mental health care. Thanks for sharing.

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