A programme to gauge how informed the youth are on life skill education began from Thimphu 

Awareness: A high level advocacy visits to three schools in Thimphu saw students and teachers discussing issues on reproductive health, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention with health and education officials.

Coinciding with the World Suicide Prevention Day on Thursday, Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the president of RENEW and the Goodwill Ambassador of UNFPA along with education and health officials interacted with students to understand how well the students were informed on life skill awareness matters.

With an increasing number of suicidal cases in the country, the need to find the root cause of the problem was also discussed during the session. Health officials said that issues such as teenage pregnancy, mental illness, and substance abuse were among the main causes of suicidal tendencies.

A total of 361 suicide deaths were recorded in 2009 until 2013 in the country, according to health records.

In Bhutan, young people between 10-24 years constitute about 56 percent of the population.

Officials said that in order to help youth abstain from indulging in such practices, life skills education, where knowing oneself better to help in making decision, critical and creative thinking, communication and coping up with stress, is important.

Students of Lungtenzampa MSS raised several issues on youth out of which, a ninth grader, Lekzang Pakila Lhaki inquired on the societal pressure put on a teenager who gets pregnant, and the stigmatisation of such individual.

Health officials said the best solution to avoid all such societal pressure is to abstain from indulging in emotional relationships at this age.

RENEW’s executive director Tandin Wangmo said that in the past most of the awareness campaigns have been with adults. “We wanted to interact with youth, the most vulnerable group of the population and see how well informed they are on these issues,” she said.

Director general of Department of Medical Services, Dr Ugen Dophu during a session at YHSS said, youth needed to play their part responsibly in spreading awareness on reproductive issues.

A class XII student, Yangchen Tshogyal said youth could help the public by imparting the knowledge that they gained during the session. “We’ll play the part of a messenger and help carry on this important message to a wider audience,” she said.

Some students from LMSS mentioned that the mainstream media in the country should help spread more awareness on such matters. “Bhutanese media has somehow failed to cover this part of the story which is very crucial for the youth to know,” said one of the students.

Another ninth grader from LMSS, Sejal Chhetri, said issues like this are an integral part of learning. “The session was informative,” the 14-year-old said.

Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck told students that Bhutanese have come a long way in discussing reproductive matters and that the youth are now comfortable discussing such critical issues openly.

Similar advocacy tours will continue at Motithang HSS today. The programme will also be held at schools in Paro and Wangduephodrang from September 14-15 and on October 9 respectively.

Younten Tshedup