The 60 peer counsellors will now start counselling in their respective schools and colleges 

Youth: Dechen Wangmo a final year student of Sherubtse College is getting cold feet. The 21-year-old coordinator of a Y-Peer is about to present a synopsis on youth issues in Bhutan, particularly on drug and alcohol abuse.

“I managed to put up what I wanted to present. I am happy with my presentation and hopefully my friends would agree with me on this,” she said.

Five leader friends from college has accompanied Dechen to attend the official launching of Champion 60, a school based prevention and intervention programme on peer-to-peer education and counselling for drug prevention and awareness, organized by Chithuen Phendhey Association.

As a part of the 60th birth anniversary celebrations of The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, the pilot project, which began last month officially, recognized its 60 champions yesterday with HRH Princess Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck awarding certificates to the champions. The 60 champions will now become peer councilors and educators in their respective schools and colleges to reach out to the alcohol and drug dependent youth and motivate them to seek treatment and rehabilitation.

Lhaba Dorji, 23, from Sherubtse said most colleges in the country are often connoted with substance abuse and alcoholism. He said Sherubtse was no exception. “There are substance abusers in our college but we learned that addiction is a mental disease and can be cured with proper counselling and guidance,” he said.

The Sherubtsens said the college recently initiated a peer-counselling committee, which intervenes before a student is referred to the disciplinary committee for action.

Another champion, Kuenzang Palmo of Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School said drug and alcohol addiction is not only a youth issue. “I have seen people seeking help and wanting to get out of that dependence, ” she said.

The ninth grader added that the Champion 60 is an initiative to create a drug free society and to help their peers live up to their fullest potentials and become a better citizen.

According to records with Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency, the number of youth abusing controlled substances increased by more than 10 times in the last 14 years.

Of the 4,227 youth arrested for their involvement in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance offences between 2001 and 2014, about 4,039 were males.

The number of arrests recorded between July 2013 and March last year was 599, compared to 59 arrests recorded in 2001.

Younten Tshedup