In yet another damning example of how Thailand’s mental-health system in failing its citizens, a Pattaya students in obvious mental distress was back on a highway bridge Tuesday threatening yet again to jump to his death.

Police and rescuers raced to the pedestrian crossing over Sukhumvit Road at Soi Nerplubwan Tuesday where the unnamed ninth-grader at Phothisamphan Pittayakarn School was holding on with just one hand from the 15-meter bridge.

Crying the entire time, the boy, still in his student uniform, finally was talked back to safety after 15 minutes.

This was the same boy who on Sept. 14 had climbed up another Sukhumvit Road pedestrian bridge near the Royal Thai Marines headquarters in Sattahip.

The youth said then he decided to end it all after taking a baht bus from Pattaya – a ride that normally costs 20 baht – and paid the driver with a 100-baht note. But the driver claimed he didn’t have change and insulted him when he argued. The baht bus then drove off, leaving the student with no money for lunch.

The boy was sent then to a local hospital for a checkup, but was quickly discharged despite the blinding warning signs that this was not just a tantrum over not getting his change. He was on medication for depression, was separate from his birth mother and living with an aunt and also had received some mental counseling.

Rescue volunteers pull the boy to safety.
Rescue volunteers pull the boy to safety.

Speaking with Alisara Jaipetch, a social worker from the Banglamung Distrit Social Welfare and Human Security office, the boy said he had come to live with his aunt because his older brother bullied and beat him repeatedly.

He now goes to school in at Photisamphan in Pattaya because his aunt works as a janitor there. But he has to take a baht bus to and from Sattahip every day.

In other countries, such behavior would land the distressed boy in a forced hold in a mental-health ward. But too often in Thailand, those attempting suicide are sent home with little more than an aspirin.

Such was the case of a man who laid down on the tracks in front of an oncoming train in Saraburi in August as well as a Pattaya woman who attempted to drown herself in May after leaping into the sea from the city’s lighthouse.

One problem is that those responding to such incidents – police officers or rescue foundation volunteers – have no real training in mental health or suicide prevention or, worse, dismiss or denigrate the incidents as not genuine cries for help.

After Tuesday’s attempt, the boy was subjected to a mental evaluation, although the hospital could not disclose what happened after that.

It’s telling that Thailand’s most-effective suicide-prevention agency is a volunteer organization not funded the government. The Samaritans of Thailand can be reached via their hotline at 02-713-6791 (English), or 02-713-6793 (Thai).

The English line, however, is merely a message service many hours of the day due to insufficient funding.

Those in distress can also call the Thai Mental Health Hotline at 1323 (Thai only).