Academic stress is one of the main issues students share on mPowerYouth, a mobile application that the department of youth and sports (DYS) developed to enhance access to public service delivery for care services among youth.

Of the 122 who registered for counselling through the app since September 2015, about 49 were related to academic pressure. Other issues include substance abuse, relationship issues, and mental health.

The 122 comprise of 87 males and 41 females and include youth studying abroad. The department receives about eight applicants a month.

The app was designed and developed by the G2C office and later handed over to the DYS.

Although, only 122 youth have availed the service, one of the counsellors at DYS requesting anonymity because of the counsellor ethic, said that the number still indicates that the app is trending. The expected app users are youth, college students, young graduates, unemployed youth, and young people at workplace.

The counsellor said anyone could register through the app from anywhere and submit issues they are facing with their name, cell number and an email address.

“The name would be kept confidential and providing their cell number is important so that we could call them back after registration,” he said.

“Once they register after describing the issue, a counsellor would call the person and provide counselling either through phone or in person, whichever they prefer.”

For instance, if a youth registers from Lhuentse, an official from DYS in Thimphu would immediately contact a counsellor based there and provide the cell number of the seeker. The DYS has placed full time counsellors in 103 schools across the country.

The applicants can share issues like substance abuse, relationship problems, violence and abuse, academic difficulties, depression and suicidal thoughts, and grief and loss, which are listed in the app.

The main objective of the app is to share current youth related programmes and activities, connect to professional counsellors in their location for free counselling services, and to serve as a one stop shop solution of all youth related information and services.

“Some youth shared suicidal thoughts and other major issues,” a counsellor said. “We try to get back as much as possible to help them become calm, refer them to a counsellor, assess the situation, and then link to service provider.”

There were also cases of youth being unable to concentrate on studies because of domestic pressure at home, hating their parents and bullying in college and schools. The department has not received any case of sexual harassment.

The counsellor also added that if an applicant feels uncomfortable to register through the app and seek counselling, they could write an email, which is available on the app.

“Some register or email us to vent their frustration but don’t want counselling. They just need a space to pour out their frustrations and let someone know what they are going through,” he said.

However, he said if a situation looks severe such as the youth harbouring suicidal thoughts, the department makes sure they provide prompt help.

Meanwhile, DYS also has toll free number, Nazhoen helpline 214 where youth could call to avail support. However, the helpline has not picked up as much as the app.

“This is because of lack of human resources where we cannot attend to calls immediately, as it requires a designated person,” a counsellor said. “The number is still active.”

Yangchen C Rinzin