At the pre-conference workshop in Thimphu yesterday, factors such as untreated mental illness, stigmatisation, and lack of services to prevent suicide were identified as some of the causes leading to suicide.

Between 2009 and 2013, 361 suicide cases were reported, which is more than combined number of death caused by tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria in the country. The number works out to six suicide cases every month.

Last year, 92 suicide cases were reported in the country.

Senior consultant psychiatrist at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), Dr D.K. Nirola, said that on average 95 percent of those who commit suicide had some kind of mental illness, of which 80 percent were associated with depressive disorder and 10 percent with schizophrenia. “In Bhutan, about 80 percent of deaths had some indication of mental illness, but only about 30 percent of them have sought help.”

People who receive treatment could also be vulnerable to suicide because of the stigmatisation associated with mental illness.

Dr D.K. Nirola said that often people do not feel the need to seek help and try to solve it themselves. “For them to come forward, suicide prevention programme must reach the rural areas and make people realise the importance of receiving and giving help to those suffering such illness.”

Health officials provide suicide intervention process through counselling.

Psychiatric nurse at JDWNRH, Zimba Letho, said that preconceptions such as suicide comes without a warning and that those who talk about suicide don’t commit suicide could hinder suicide attempts.

Based on the signs and indications, appropriate intervention could be applied for the patient receiving treatment. Depending on the seriousness of an individual’s suicide plans, five stages of intervention could be put in place.

Zimba Letho said that some simple ways of providing appropriate intervention could be being aware of the patient’s state, being direct and talking about the issue, willing to listen, being non-judgmental, and by taking actions by removing lethal weapons, which could be used to harm themselves.

Nursing and counselling students of Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sicences of Bhutan.

Phurpa Lhamo