Phub Dem | Paro

Colleges under the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) are establishing happiness and wellbeing centres to address mental health problems.

The nine colleges established the centres through a project to support students to enhance mental health, counselling and wellbeing.

The project is coordinated by Paro College of Education and Samtse College of Education in collaboration with three higher education institutes from the Europe Union.

According to the project coordinator, Sangay Dorji, the centres operate through a hybrid model of contemporary theories and practices in the field of counselling, guidance, and wellbeing integrated with the Bhutanese philosophy of Gross National Happiness.

He said that all students under the RUB were registered online to seek help virtually and anonymously.

He said that the project assisted colleges in capacity building through human resource training and the purchase of resources. “The project developed a digital platform dedicated for wellbeing and happiness centres, professionals working in the field of human service, students, young people, and international experts.”

The centres will cater services related to happiness, wellbeing, and counselling to RUB staff, local community, government agencies, and non-government organisations.

Some of the centres’ services are mindfulness, one-to-one counselling, group counselling, programmes on insight, and skill enhancement.

Three centre managers of each college, including dean of student affairs and student service officers were trained and certified as counsellors.

The centre will support the students deal with stress management, academic pressure, relationship issues, and skill-building that includes writing a resume, curriculum vitae, interview tips and references.

It also developed a training manual, working framework for the counselling centres and ethical code of conduct for counsellors working at the centres.

Representatives from relevant agencies such as Bhutan Board of Certified Counsellor, Bhutan Medical and Health Council, Bhutan Institute of Wellbeing, Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency, Ministry of Labor and Human Resources, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Central Monastic Body, Royal Bhutan Police and Department of Culture participated in the final stakeholders meeting conducted at PCE last week.

The representative discussed signing a memorandum of agreement for future collaboration and support.

Sangay Dorji said that the centre would serve as a point of reference for the stakeholders and support the centres.

He said that as the issue requires collective efforts, the agreement was essential for collaboration and sustainability of the centre once the project phase-out in November this year.

He said that in the past, wellbeing and counselling services at colleges were not uniform, adding that the centres integrated all the services targeted towards college students. “There will now be strong collaboration among RUB colleges.”

Most participants feel that there should be such centres in schools as many schools do not have adequate infrastructure for counselling services.

The project is co-funded under the Erasmus Plus programme. The project started in November 2018.

Edited by Tashi Dema