Mourners overcome by grief get medical help; govt also sets up trauma hotline

People sit on a street as they offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Oct 15, 2016.
People sit on a street as they offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Oct 15, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK • King Bhumibol Adulyadej was so revered that many Thai people around the country fainted or felt unwell when they learnt this week that he had died after 70 years on the throne.

Two days on, the government says it has provided medical treatment to scores of people overcome by grief and has told mourners they can call a hotline to help them through the trauma.

"There are people who hyperventilate and we try to calm them down by talking to them," Mr Boonruang Triruangworawat, director-general of the Department of Mental Health, said yesterday. "Others, we have to send to hospital." He was speaking outside the Grand Palace where the King's body will lie for months before a royal cremation.

Thousands of black-clad mourners gathered there yesterday, some holding umbrellas against the sun, and others fanning themselves, visibly overcome by grief.

Dozens of ambulances and medical tents could be seen around the riverside palace, and teams handed out cotton wool soaked in ammonia solution to help revive people close to fainting. Mr Boonruang said around 200 people had been treated by medics since the King's death, some for hyperventilation due to anxiety.

Thais loved King Bhumibol as a father figure, and his death has left many uncertain about the future.

One of those being treated at the palace, Mr Suchin Yamatad, 64, said he felt dizzy at the news of the King's death.

"It's just that I'm old. I've seen His Majesty for a long time," he added.

There was a government webpage to advise people on how to cope with grief, besides a counselling hotline, the Ministry of Public Health said.

"Those who are overcome with emotion can call it," said ministry spokesman Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai.

Most of Thailand is hushed in dignified mourning, but in some areas news of the death fuelled tension.

About 400 people gathered outside the home of a soya milk vendor in the southern province of Phuket on Friday to protest against a Facebook post by the vendor's son that they saw as insulting to the King, police said.

The vendor's son could be charged with breaking Thailand's royal defamation and computer crimes law, said Mr Teerapon Tipcharoen, the Phuket provincial police commander in charge of the case.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 16, 2016, with the headline 'Mourners overcome by grief get medical help; govt also sets up trauma hotline'. Print Edition | Subscribe