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Mental Health Dept moves to help young Thai offenders

national September 03, 2018 01:00

By THE NATION

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IN A MOVE to address Thai youths’ problems and to stop them from re-offending, the Mental Health Department has developed a programme in which juveniles are provided rehabilitation as soon as they enter detention centres until well after they are released.



The programme has been implemented on a pilot basis at four centres before it is expanded to cover the remaining 90 across the country, Mental Health Department director-general Dr Boonreung Traireungworarat said yesterday.

Dr Boonreung Traireungworarat

It is currently being provided at Bangkok’s Ban Metta Juvenile Remand Home, Samut Prakarn’s Ban Karuna Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Boys, Nakhon Pathom’s Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Girls and the 8th Regional Juvenile Vocational Training Centre in Surat Thani.

Dr Sarutabhandu Chakrabhandu na Ayutaya, director of the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute, said as per the programme, detention centres would screen all offenders and provide treatment for those suffering from mental disorders. Those in a critical condition would be transferred to a psychiatric hospital. 

He said the treatment would continue long after the youngsters are released so they can not only recover, but also refrain from re-offending and learn to live a normal life. 

This programme was created to tackle the alarming increase in youth-related offences, Dr Boonreung said. A recent study found that as many as 83 youth-related crimes are committed every day, and that 96 per cent of the young offenders reportedly suffer from mental problems. 

Boonreung also cited a Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection report in 2016 that found 30,356 youths under 18 had committed offences, 90 per cent of whom were aged between 15 and 18. 

The most common crimes were related to drugs (41 per cent), followed by theft (20 per cent), assault (14 per cent) and possession of arms or explosives (7 per cent). The rate of repeat offenders had risen from 12 per cent in 2012 to 19 per cent as of 2015.

Of the 96 per cent reportedly suffering from mental disorder, 79 per cent were found to have more than two types of problems, Boonreung said, citing his department’s 2015 data. 

The most cited problems were substance abuse (84 per cent), conduct disorder (34 per cent), anxiety (11 per cent), manic depression or bipolar disorder (10 per cent) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (7 per cent). 

The doctor explained that many offences stemmed from youths living in an unhealthy environment where their problems were not addressed, and this usually resulted in them reoffending. These youths can then grow up with anti-social personality disorders or even become people who can commit crimes without feeling any regret, he warned. 

Dr Boonreung said the only way this could be prevented was if young people were given proper guidance from primary school. Another study found that children as young as seven years old had already started drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or marijuana and even taking methamphetamine pills, he said. 

On the other hand, as many as 10,712 young victims had been taken to public hospitals in 2015, or a rate of 30 victims per day. Of these, more than 3,000 cases were of young girls being sexually, physically or mentally assaulted by people close to them, he said. Young people’s mental development can be adversely affected by such attacks and lead to them repressing their anger, he said, adding that these youngsters need rehabilitation. 

Hence, he said the Mental Health Department was promoting the healthy upbringing of children and will start screening schoolchildren for mental disorder so they can be treated in time. 

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