To strengthen mental health care services, the regional referral hospitals in the country will have a psychiatrist and a clinical counsellor each in the 12th Plan.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, in response to a question on what the government is doing to help mental health patients at the meet-the-press session yesterday, said major dzongkhag hospitals will have at least a counsellor each. Health minister Tandin Wangchuk was not present at the session.

Today, there are only three psychiatrists at the national referral hospital in Thimphu. “They are not enough to reach out to patients nationwide,” lyonchhen said.

Lyonchhen said mental health is a disease and it has to be treated in hospitals. “They don’t need rehabilitation. They need a cure. It’s not a bad habit that they have to be winged out of.”

The disadvantages will outweigh the advantages if a separate mental rehabilitation centre for mental health patient is established, Lyonchhen said. “To treat the patients, it’s important that the hospital has the required facilities. We need doctors to strengthen mental health care services.”

The health ministry had already selected four doctors for postgraduate study in psychiatry. They will be leaving for studies soon. Since last year, the undergraduate programme in BSc (Bachelor of Science) counselling has already started at the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences.

To further strengthen the services, new doctors and health professionals are trained annually on mental health. About 86 doctors, 104 nurses, health assistants and clinical officers were trained to have compulsory service and counselling in mental health in the financial year 2016 – 2017.

In an earlier interview with Kuensel, a psychiatrist with the national referral hospital, Dr Chencho Dorji, said medical as well as social support is required to treat mental health patients.

He said other patients have the ability to understand that they are ill and that they should get treatment but the challenge in psychiatry is that most patients do not know that they are ill or accept that they are ill and do not take treatment.

He said roughly 25 percent of mental health patients live a normal life after treatment while about 25 percent never get better.

Dechen Tshomo