Even as we have counsellors in almost all the schools and higher education institutions, how their services reach the young and those who need care and counselling is the question.

Counselling is not the answer to all the problems that our young people are grappling with today. But it can contribute a lot towards addressing most of the difficulties that our young people face.

Do our counsellors have the right traits and values that the profession demands? And are they available? A good professional counsellor does not wait for someone to show up with his or her problem. He or she should be able to figure out what someone is going through and offer his or her help. Above all, a good counsellor should be a good listener. How would you understand someone’s difficulties and problems otherwise? Prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation could then be challenging.

There is today a need for collective collaboration to detect, prevent and treat mental disorders in the country, especially among the young. Issues like unemployment, substance and alcohol abuse are affecting our young people in more serious ways. Suicide is on the rise. More and more young people today are exposed to harmful substances and behaviours. Many, who lack care and counselling, have gone down the bad road.

Recently, Bhutan Board for Certified Counsellors certified 147 counsellors. The certification of peer, associate, master counsellors, and supervisor came about at the fourth biennial counselling conference in Thimphu. These are some positive steps that we have taken in the light of many emerging youth-related issues in the country. As many professional counsellors as we may require, our focus should also be on the competency.

Psychiatrists say that some of the common mental disorders in Bhutan are depression, and anxiety disorders such as phobic, panic, dissociative, obsessive disorder, acute reaction to stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, somatoform disorder, mood disorder, psychosis, alcohol, and substance use disorder. All these disorders are on the rise!

Against backdrop of such developments in our society, there is a need not for just more counsellors but also competent and dedicated professionals. More than anywhere, they are needed in our schools and colleges.