… 269 were civil servants   

Thinley Namgay  

Between 2017 and 2021, 3,528 individuals were referred to the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) and National Traditional Medicine Hospital (NTMH) in Thimphu with mental health disorders (MHDs).

On average, more than 54 people visited the hospitals in a month to treat MHDs. Anxiety and depressive disorder were more common in women and MHDs due to alcohol use were more common in males.

Of the 3,528 patients, 2,548 comprising 1,717 males and 831 females  were admitted to the psychiatry ward of JDWNRH. While 980 patients – 238 males and 742 females visited for consultation at NTMH.

Of the 2,548 individuals admitted to the JDWNRH, the most productive citizens aged between 30 and 39 were affected, 437 were aged 30-34 and 408 were aged 35-39.

These data were as per the research conducted by the Centre of Bhutan and GNH Studies this year on the prevalence of MHD among public servants at the psychiatry ward of JDWNRH and an outpatient department of NTMH.

Of the 980 MHDs cases in NTMH, 973 suffered from depression and anxiety disorders. About 17 percent of the total patients who visited the NTMH were aged 30 – 39.

As per the study, MHD was most common in people living in the capital city.  Among city dwellers, people from Samtse dzongkhag have the  highest MHDs cases with 9.1 percent followed by Thimphu at 8.5 percent and Trashigang at 8.3 percent.

Of the total admitted patients, 2,006 mentally ill were living in Thimphu.

As per the record of JDWNRH, the most victim of MHD is unemployed people with 19. 1 percent (487).

A significant number of school-going children were also affected by MHDs with  13.8 percent (354) followed by privately employed people at 12.2 percent (312).

MHDs due to the use of alcohol were the most predominant case at JDWNRH. Of the total admission, 47.5 percent (1,212) was  referred  due to alcohol consumption.  “A significant number of people were  also  affected by MHD due to multiple drug uses.”

The data revealed that 89.8 percent (2,289) had recovered fully and were discharged home.

The prevalence of MHDs among civil servants is 10.5 percent (269) of the total admission at the psychiatry ward, JDWNRH.

“It is in the top six ranks in the occupation variable category. Prevalence among males is much higher than in the female category with a ratio of 3:1,” said the report.

Of the 269 cases among civil servants, 181 were diagnosed with MHDs due to alcohol use, followed by bipolar disorder and stress.  A total of 25.7 percent (69) of the employees were affected during their very productive age of 30-39.

As per the report, 223 civil servants currently working in Thimphu were admitted at JDWNRH for recovery management in the last five years.  

As per the findings of WHO, around 450 million people worldwide suffer from MHDs and 75 percent of them live in low-income and middle-income countries where social inequality ties are high.

Considering that MHDs cases are more in urban areas, research recommends stakeholders know the causative factors and reinforce rural-urban migration policy.

The research also demands employment opportunities for youth. “There is also a need for mental health legislation comprising legislations, strategic plans, programmes, and other instrumental measures to address mental health problems across communities.”

The promotion of mental health programmes in educational institutes could also help address the issue as per the report.

The study says that traditional medicines could cure some MHDs. “MHD is so-called when the mind becomes unstable. There is also an invisible element in the human body from the concept of Sowa Rigpa called rlung, which is directly associated with the mind.”

“The disorder caused by the imbalance of this element can be managed by traditional practitioners through various means of preventive and curative measures,” stated the study.

There is also a need for a greater role by the monastic body to cure MHDs through teachings on mindfulness and mind training to schools and communities.

Identifying people in need of mental health care, assisting rehabilitation facilities for the mentally ill in the village, and public awareness programmes are also the way forward.