FOLLOWING a significant number of recent charcoal-burning suicides in Thailand, the Public Health Ministry’s Mental Health Department is urging the media to avoid giving too many details of how the deaths occurred, out of fear that such reports could lead to copycat deaths.
There were three such incidents on Monday and Tuesday of this week alone: two led to the person dying and the third saw a man being rescued just in time.
Mental Health Department chief Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit said yesterday that reporting of suicides had recently been more frequent, especially those committed by burning charcoal. He said some people, being repeatedly exposed to fine details of such suicide methods and pictures in the media, might resort to attempting to kill themselves in the same way.
Kiattiphum pleaded for the media’s cooperation in doing their bit to prevent more suicides, especially those using identical methods, and urged the media to be mindful of the danger when publishing reports of suicides and avoid going into too much detail or providing graphic images.
He also suggested that people be alert for friends and family who exhibit any signs of depression, sadness, insomnia, negative views or anything else implying they were having suicidal thoughts, in what they said or posted on social media.
“If you notice such signs, please talk to the person, offer your help and encouragement to him or her, invite him or her to take part in activities outside,” he said, “or seek help from public health facilities or the mental health hotline 1323 or the department’s smart phone application for suicide prevention namely ‘sabaijai’”.
Charcoal-burning suicide, a method more popular among men, accounted for 0.1 per cent of all suicide cases in Thailand from 1997-2017, said the department’s Suicide Prevention Centre.
The three charcoal-burning suicide cases this week started on Monday with the death of 70-year-old Sompong Siririn, father of Paradox rock band bassist Jakkapong “Song” Siririn. He was found inside his car, which was parked at his home in Nonthaburi, along with a burned-out “Ang Lo” charcoal stove. Police suspect Sompong committed suicide during the early hours, while family members were asleep, because of stress over chronic pain after suffering a fall two years ago.
A 31-year-old woman, reportedly suffering stress over a large overdue debt from football gambling, was found dead in her car at 6pm on Monday along with a pot of burned-out charcoal. The car was parked at a gas station in Ayutthaya’s Ban Pa-in district.
The following morning, a 37-year-old Phitsanulok-based finance company employee was found unconscious and with a weak pulse in his car, which was filled with smoke from burned charcoal in a pot. The car was parked behind a temple crematorium in Nakhon Sawan’s Muang district. His wife said the man suffered stress due to his work and from the family’s financial problems.
There were also three charcoal-burning suicide cases last month.
On the night of January 31, a 30-year-old fruit orchard farmer was found dead in an apparent suicide in his locked pick-up truck that was parked on the side of Highway No 317 in Chanthaburi’s Muang district, also next to a burned-out charcoal stove.
A 33-year-old woman, who was four months’ pregnant and reportedly suffering from depression, was found dead on January 23 in her car, parked in an isolated spot in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Muang district. Police again ruled it as a suicide case after finding a burned-out charcoal stove inside the car and because there were no signs of the woman having been in a struggle.
On January 3, a 46-year-old engineer was found dead, again with a burned-out charcoal stove, a pack of sleeping pills and a suicide note, in his car in Nakhon Pathom’s Bang Len district.