Chhimi Dema

Coinciding with the world suicide prevention day yesterday, the national Covid-19 mental health and psychosocial response team launched an online training of suicide prevention for gatekeepers who interact daily with other people in the community.

Dr Chencho Dorji, psychiatrist leading the response team, said that the gatekeepers were individuals who help save lives.

The training is expected to end on October 10, which is observed as the world mental health day. Interested individuals can register for the training online.

According to the suicide data of the World Health Organisation (WHO), in a year worldwide, close to 800,000 people take their own lives, which is one person every 40 seconds; for every suicide, there are more than 20 attempts.

Dr Chencho Dorji said that the suicide trend was increasing. “Around 100 people die of suicide in Bhutan every year, which is more than the global average rate of 11 suicides per 100,000 population.”

The convergence of biological, psychological, environmental and societal factors causes people to die due to suicide.

Dr Chencho says that the cause of suicide is multifactorial, meaning there are many causes such as mental disorders, addiction, poverty, chronic illnesses, interpersonal conflicts, loss of livelihood, jobs and partners, among others.

There were increased risks of suicide and self-harm during the pandemic, Dr Chencho said. “Not just the psychological stress, but individuals suffer economic loss due to the lockdown and social restrictions which affects the mental well-being and livelihoods of people.”

He said that well up to 90 percent of suicides cases were associated with mental disorders, among which depression, schizophrenia, drugs and alcoholism are highly related.

There were challenges in preventing suicide because it was a complex disease and there was no simple solution, he said. “It needs a multi-faceted approach by a multi-disciplinary team to address the problem.”

Moreover, suicide prevention depended on the individual’s resources to cope or deal with the problem, the environmental factors such as the type of help and support available, he added.

If a person is suicidal, someone has to stay with the patient even if it is through remote means like a phone conversation. The person should be referred to a professional counsellor or mental health worker.

“Our culture is very unfriendly to people living with mental disorders,” Dr Chencho said.

He said that people were afraid to ask whether someone was suicidal lest it could encourage the person to take his or her own life.

“Rather than asking a question, most of us will simply shut the person up saying – ‘oh, why are you worried, why are you depressed, why are you crying?’. This sort of statement does not help or allow the person to express their emotions and issues.”