Substance abuse responsible for mental disorder in youth

Youth: At least 12 youth visit the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu every month with a mental disorder.

An analysis by the National Statistics Bureau between 2000 and 2014 found that young males were more vulnerable to mental and behavioral disorders because of drug and alcohol use. Epilepsy, anxiety and depression were more common among female youth.

Although there was drastic variation in the number of youth visiting the hospital every year, epilepsy at 606 was the most common mental illness reported for youth among the 61 different disorders recorded.

Anxiety at 354 was the second common disorder, followed by depression at 328, and dissociative disorder at 167 and drug abuse at 140.

There were 68 cases of somatoform disorder, 41 cases of bipolar affective disorder and 36 for migraine.

NSB’s research officer, Cheda Jamtsho while presenting the key findings at the dissemination forum said, 25 percent of young people, who availed mental health service, were depressed between 2000 and 2014.

The findings, he said, have serious implications, though limited, for those who strive to educate policy makers and public. The study, however, did not consider the evaluation of cause or risk factors.

“Reliance on just OPD data may limit the findings and so the results cannot be generalised,” he said adding that the results cannot be even generalised for Thimphu alone because the in-patients records at JDWNRH were not included.

Cheda Jamtsho also said that while the analysis provides basis for conducting a comprehensive survey in future. “The findings at best, can be taken to understand the incidence of disorders as a suggestive trend,” he said.

According to the hospital’s Out-Patient Department (OPD) records, a total of 6,297 people availed treatment for mental disorders between 2000 and 2014.

Thirty-three percent of them were youth between 10 and 24 years. Among the youth, 1,086 were males.

NSB has not done statistical tests for the correlation between youth crime, drug abuse and mental disorder but three separate studies on analysis of crime data, mental health data, and qualitative data collected through in-depth interviews with 44 young juvenile delinquents featured substance abuse as one of the key factors for crime as well as one of the main mental disorders.

Nirmala Pokhrel

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