School counsellors call for a need to assess the benefits of awareness programmes

Health: Jampeling Middle Secondary School (JMSS) in Trashigang was electing school captains when they heard the news a few weeks ago.

One of their students, a 17-year-old physically challenged boy had taken his own life. To his teachers and friends, he was an intelligent, confident and well behaved student. He also couldn’t talk clearly.

Despite being physically challenged, he was a happy and bright student, recalled school principal Rinzin Dorji, even though he had to deal with his broken family issues.

“We had an election of school captains the day he committed suicide,” the principal said. “He seemed normal when he was casting his vote. That was the last time I saw him.”

Ten days following the incident, another 11-year-old student of Kanglung Primary School committed suicide. The child also hails from a broken family was living with his mother.

Suicide cases are steadily increasing in Trashigang. According to police reports, there were three suicide cases reported in 2014.

This year, the district has reported eight suicides. Of the 11 cases, three were girls and the rest males. From the total, three were students.

Counsellor with JMSS, Sangay Tenzin, said students are constantly advocated on the signs and symptoms of those who are suicidal.

“We also have a group of students who help us identify if there is any student with intentions to take their own lives,” he said. “The identified students go through counseling and so far, I have dealt with three such cases.”

Sangay Tenzin said that those who are likely to commit suicide show symptoms like sharing suicidal thoughts with friends, expression of their intention through writing and possession of suicidal equipment among others.

“In major cases, the behavior of an individual would show drastic transformation. For instance, a talkative person would suddenly become silent and vice versa,” he said.

Every individual, he said, would encounter suicidal thoughts thrice in his or her lifetime.

“People committing suicides don’t want to die. In fact, they are crying for help,” he said. “So, when somebody talks about taking their life, we need to take it seriously. Sadly, this is not happening in our society.”

The way forward, school counsellors said, should start from every individual and further through collective effort from the society. Though numerous advocacy programs have and are being initiated, how seriously the issue is still remains a huge question, counsellors said.

“We need to go beyond these awareness activities and take up studies on how effective such programs really are,” another school counsellor said. “May be the education system should intervene early in a child’s life by incorporating effective measures to prevent suicides.”

Tshering Wangdi,  Trashigang