Event: Suicide death in the country ranks among the top six leading causes of death after alcoholic liver diseases, health minister Tandin Wangchuk said during an event to observe World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.

Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said that the burden of suicide is increasing globally every year and it is a concern.

According to a World Health Organisation report, more than 800,000 people worldwide take their own life every year, while there are many more people who attempt suicide.

A five-year review of suicide cases from 2009 – 13 shows that a total of 361 individuals in Bhutan committed suicide, which translates to an average of 72 suicide cases in a year.

Lyonpo said that given the country’s population, the loss of even a person is a tragic loss for the family and the country.

“Suicide deaths leave the already vulnerable and disadvantaged members in poverty and losing people in their economic productive age is a great loss to the nation,” Lyonpo said.

Deeply concerned and recognizing the significant burden of suicide deaths in the country, the Royal Government conducted a study of suicide cases in the country, Lyonpo added.

A three-year action plan, the National Suicide Prevention  (July 2015 – June 2018) was approved by the Cabinet last year. The government also directed the establishment of Suicide Prevention Programme with the health ministry.

Further, through the issuance of an executive order, the Prime Minister has directed all dzongkhags, government and private sectors, and other agencies to implement the activities in the action plan.

Lyonpo explained that the theme this year, ‘Connect, Communicate and Care,’ clearly sends out the message that all sectors including the government agencies, private sectors, communities, policy makers and individuals among others are required to prevent suicide.

It is important to connect with those who have lost a loved one to suicide or have had suicidal tendencies themselves to understand the complex sequence of events and circumstances that lead to suicides and to learn how they were saved, Lyonpo said.

“We need to communicate and talk with people who are vulnerable to suicide, and reduce stigma and myths about suicide as well, ” Lyonpo said.

The review shows that 87 percent of suicide deaths in the country occurred within the age group of 15-40.

Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said that suicides are a result of many factors. Economic factors, relationship problems, domestic violence, and emotional abuse are some of the major risk factors, while alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness such as depression and anxiety, among others, are the other risk factors.

“This clearly indicates that we all need to work together to prevent suicides,” Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said.

The WHO report states that 75 percent of global suicides occur in low and middle-income countries.

Meanwhile, the review shows that about 88 percent of suicide deaths in Bhutan occurred in rural areas, while 66 percent have occurred among married people followed by 58 percent in low-income group.

Lyonpo said that while the agencies are involved in the prevention efforts to reduce suicide incidences in the country, it is important that prevention effort begin from oneself.

Therefore, Lyonpo urged the students from schools in Thimphu who observed the day at the Youth Development Fund hall to call Health Help Centre toll free 112 and seek counselling if the students are going through depression, stress or anxiety or need to talk to someone.

Students can also seek help from the health coordinators and counsellors in the schools.

“You must understand that suicide is not a solution to any problems, but discussing them with friends and family will help resolve them,” Lyonpo said. “As champions of ending the suicide deaths, you are also expected to convey the message to your parents, family and friends.”

WHO country representative, Dr Ornella Lincetto, said that every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind.

“Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds globally in 2012,” Dr Lincetto said.

Suicide is a serious public health problem; however, suicides are preventable with timely, evidence-based and often low-cost interventions, Dr Lincetto added.

Khenpo Kuenzang Thinley with Tango University of Buddhist Studies talked to the participants about the importance of life and the circle of Karma, among others.

“You are bigger than any of your problems and committing suicide will never solve your problems. It will only make it worse for the people you decide to leave behind,” Khenpo Kuenzang Thinley said.

A Facebook page, Mind Over Matter Bhutan, was also created to discuss mental health and suicide prevention.

Dechen Tshomo