Thailand is located in Southeast Asia and covers an area of 513 115 km2. In 2006 its population was approximately 64 million. The major nationality is Thai. About 80% of the total population live in rural areas. The country is composed of 76 provinces, divided into a total of 94 districts and 7159 sub-districts.
Prevalence of mental illnesses
The latest data concerning the prevalence of mental disorders in Thailand were obtained from a national survey conducted in 2003. The survey was a two-step cross-sectional community survey using AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) and MINI (Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview). There were 11 700 participants, aged 15–59 years, selected by stratified two-stage cluster sampling. The top three problems found (1-month prevalence) were alcohol use disorders (28.5%), major depressive disorder (3.2%) and generalised anxiety disorder (1.9%) (Siriwanarangsan et al, 2004).
Mental health policy and legislation
The current mental health policy was formulated in 1995. Its main components are advocacy, promotion, treatment and rehabilitation, but it also includes sections on administration and technical development. The policy plan is to promote mental health and prevent mental health problems, to expand and develop treatment and rehabilitation services, to develop a management system to reform all aspects of mental health services, and to develop modern psychosocial and other technical knowledge in order to apply them fruitfully to Thailand's mental health situation (World Health Organization, 2001).
There is at present no mental health legislation, although a Mental Health Bill, which was drafted by the Department of Mental Health and then revised according to suggestions from service providers, carers and ex-patients during a public hearing process, has been submitted to parliament. However, parliament was dissolved in February 2006 following an army coup and we must now wait until we get a new parliament to approve the Bill. The Mental Health Bill is, in essence, similar to the legislation enacted in other countries, in that all persons in need of psychiatric treatment either will be able to access it voluntarily or will be compulsorily brought to a hospital for evaluation and to receive treatment.