Thai Public Health Ministry warns of 'news over-consumption'... again!

Originally published at Siam Voices on June 3, 2014 [Author's note: Due to the military coup of May 22, 2014 and subsequent censorship measures we have placed certain restrictions on what we publish. Please also read Bangkok Pundit's post on that subject. We hope to return to full and free reporting and commentary in the near future.]

With the Thai political crisis lasting almost seven months, those people not  thoroughly exhausted yet (or simply still not jaded enough) have been following the events of the last two weeks on a variety of news and social media sources for the latest developments. Even after the seizure of power by the military on May 22, Thai citizens were still looking for any sort of information they can get despite the censorship measures by the military junta.

However, it seems that one can get overwhelmed by the sustained flood of information and the supposed mental burden of differentiating fact from fiction. That's at least what the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) thinks and has warned of "over-consumption of news, which may lead to mental stress," according to the state-owned and pro-government (no matter who's in charge) National News Bureau of Thailand.

But this is not the first time that Thai health officials are warning against the too-much-information syndrome. Back in the summer of 2012 we reported that a spokesman of the Mental Health Department of the public health ministry specifically warned people  “not to follow political news for more than two hours in a sitting”, since that could result in what they coined as "Political Stress Syndrome" (PSS).

The same department warned politically curious Thais for the first time way back in March 2006 (arguably the early days of the Thai political crisis) of said syndrome. ”Psychiatrists are afraid that people with accumulated PSS symptoms will resort to violent means to break the political dead end because they feel that a peaceful movement is not a solution to the impasse,” a Thai mental health official said at the time.

In 2012, the Mental Health Department - while acknowledging that the heightened political awareness among Thais is ultimately a good thing for the nation's progress - suggested essentially that people should be more careful and considerate towards each other when expressing political opinions, especially online.

Back in the very different present, the solution offered now by Ministry of Public Health is more clear-cut:

Wachira Phengchan, deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, on Friday cautioned those who constantly follow up on political developments against stress. According to him, the continuous exposure to such news could cause mental stress, and people at risk of such stress are advised to follow only the news from state-run news outlets in the morning and evening.

"MOPH warns against mental stress resulting from over-consumption of news", National News Bureau of Thailand, May 24, 2014

The checklist published in the 2012 MOHP announcement in order to determine if an individual is suffering from "Political Stress Syndrome" likely still or even more so applies today in the current political situation:

1) “Do you feel anxiety when expressing political opinions?”, 2) “Do you feel hopelessness regarding the current political situation?”, 3) ”Do political news make you feel easily upset or angry?”, 4) “The political situation keeps you awake at night?”, 5) “Are you unfocused at your job or daily activities when thinking about politics?” 6) “Politics causes fights and arguments with others?” 7) “Are you feeling afraid when following political news?” 8) “Are you repeatedly thinking about the political situation?”

Ministry of Public Health Press Release, July 13, 2012