Suicide ranks among the top six leading causes of deaths in Bhutan

Health: In its first step towards implementing the Suicide Prevention Action Plan, the government last week endorsed the establishment of a Bhutan Board for Certified Counselors (BBCC.)

One of the objectives of the action plan was to initiate certification of counseling program in Bhutan and get counsellors and service providers trained to provide the right interventions in preventing suicide.

To ensure close collaboration and support the development of counselling in Bhutan, the National Board of Certified Counsellors based in the US and RENEW signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) yesterday at the third Biennial Counselling Conference in Thimphu.

Royal patron of RENEW, Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck graced the opening of the conference themed ‘preventing suicide: reaching out and saving lives.’

In his keynote address, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that counseling professionals need to be well trained and qualified to address and deal with sensitive issues involved in mental health and suicide prevention. Counseling services, he said, are urgently required in diverse fields in clinical and social settings, and for groups vulnerable to drugs, alcohol addictions and violence.

“Counseling is an important psychosocial intervention in mental health and suicide prevention,” he said. “We must not forget the fact that to a large extent, suicide is preventable with appropriate interventions provided at the right time.”

He said every month at least seven Bhutanese take their own lives and suicide deaths ranks among the top six leading causes of deaths in Bhutan.

Increasing number of people between the ages of 15-45 is treated in Basic Health Units and hospitals for suicide attempts and deliberate self-harm. A lot of suicide attempts do not seek care and treatment, lyonchoen said.

For a nation committed to promoting happiness and upholding the values and ideals of Gross National Happiness, he said, there is a great sense of urgency to overcome the suicide trend.

“With the Suicide Prevention Action Plan endorsed and ready to be implemented, our goal is to have zero deaths by suicide; no family, village, or community would want anyone dying of suicide,” he said.

About 40 counselors, including school counselors and peer counselors attended the daylong conference.

Chief Executive Officer of NBCC, Dr Tom Clawson said the centre has much to learn than teach to Bhutan about suicide prevention.

“We’re here to explore the darkest issue of the society, which no one has been able to come up with solutions,” he said adding that ways to deal with suicide needs to be explored.

Meanwhile, RENEW’s executive director, Tandin Wangmo said families and friends are inappropriately ignored when people talk about those who died by suicide.  While suicide is a societal problem, families and friends require the same amount of counselling and support.

She added that Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck always accorded highest priority to the advancement of mental health and counselling professionals in Bhutan including psychologists, social workers and other similar service providers.

“With NBCC’s assistance through BBCC, our professional capacity can be considerably enhanced,” she said.

Nirmala Pokhrel