… in line with the government’s objective to reduce suicide incidents and other youth related issues

Health: In an effort to develop a comprehensive and responsive mental health system in the country, the Faculty of Nursing and Public Health under the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB) introduced a Bachelor of Science programme in Clinical Counselling yesterday in Thimphu.

The programme is designed to prepare counsellors to understand and recognise the impact of mental disorders not only on individuals but also society at large. It is also to identify evidence of mental disorders, suicide risks and vulnerabilities of substance abuse, among others, and accordingly deploy necessary interventions.

Programme leader Kinley Gyaltshen said that the curriculum was developed in line with the government’s objective to reduce suicide incidents and other youth related issues resulting from mental disorders.

He said that the rapid socio-economic development of the country has stimulated several mental health issues such as substance abuse, suicides, and attempted suicides, deliberate self-harm and undesirable social menaces.

“The main responsibility of our counsellors will be to help these individuals with mental issues and assist them in coping with their stress,” said Kinley Gyaltshen.

Last year in May, the Cabinet in its 74th meeting approved a three-year suicide prevention action plan to address the rising suicide problem in the country. A national task force for suicide prevention was also formed.

However, officials said that with only a handful of psychiatrists and fewer clinical counsellors in the country, the issues could not be addressed extensively.

One of the curriculum developers, Dr Brian Price said that the lack of trained mental health personnel in the Bhutanese health system has hindered in creating a comprehensive mental health care system.

The visiting professor said that although the mental health programme of the ministry has successfully trained doctors, medical officers and health workers in recognising, diagnosing and prescribing drug treatment for major categories of mental illness, much was still needed to be done.

“While remarkable, practically all these steps have focused solely on the biological perspective of mental illness,” said Dr Brian Price. “Psychological, social and spiritual elements related to the cause, maintenance, treatment and prevention of mental disorders have yet to be developed.”

Dr Brian Price said that while many other professional and nonprofessional relationships are helpful in easing the burden of mental illness, clinical counselling is a formally recognised health profession.

A total of six students will undergo the three-year programme at the Faculty of Nursing and Public Health in Thimphu. The students have completed their first 12 months of a foundation course with the faculty.

Younten Tshedup