Bhutanese people have no reason to commit suicide the Prime Minister said at the National Assembly last week. This observation from the head of the government about one of the most serious and rising issues facing modern Bhutan is not received well.

Bhutan, the people are told, was different from other countries because it was a blessed country with Gross National Happiness as its overarching development philosophy. There is no denying this fact, of course. But, surely, happiness does not push people off the cliff or leave them hanging from the ceilings feeling too small and overpowered in the face of challenges myriad that visit them painfully every moment of lives. While surveys show that happiness level of the Bhutanese citizens is increasing by the year, scourges like substance abuse and suicide have been rearing their ugly heads ever so frequently. How do we reconcile with these vastly divergent facts?

Sadly but, the real issue is losing focus. This, honourable citizens, is the point of reference – maybe we misunderstood our elected leaders or they find us hopelessly naive or gullible. Otherwise, we would not be ridiculing and underestimating ourselves at this level this way – this hour this day.

People believe they have reasons to end their lives if they find them not worth living. Education and health, our visionary forebears saw the worth of it and had the wisdom and courage to turn them true, are being provided free. Bhutanese do not need this reminded, because they will remain forever grateful that such are the fortunes that they have always enjoyed because of the farsightedness of their self-less monarchs. But that is not the argument. It is less our concern how many people put an end to their own lives in other countries. In a “blessed country” where happiness is cultivated tirelessly, a promising life down is one too many. Such comparisons are painfully irrelevant.

Most people in this country who choose to end their lives aren’t mentally unsound. Close to 80 percent of suicide cases was found to have no relation with mental sickness or issues. This is what the government commissioned report – A Study on Suicide Case in Bhutan 2014 – says. But, of course, we are let to know that the government has trust issues with their own findings.

It has been established that close to 60 percent of completed [suicide] cases involved those who earned less than Nu 3,000 a month. This explains why farmers are the least happy group in this society. There are reasons social, economic, and others playing their part individually and dangerously. To see how they affect the common people, we need only to look out of our ivory towers.

There is something unhealthy brewing in our society that is cutting the lives of our most promising and young. We can ill afford to play with numbers and trivialise the issue.