The National Council’s Social and Cultural Affairs Committee (SCAC) submitted nine recommendations to the government to improve mental health and suicide services in the country.
In light of the growing number of mental disorders and suicides reported in the country, the committee subsequently added four additional recommendations to the five it proposed on December 15. The same week, His Holiness the Khenpo also published a Kasho on the increase in suicide cases in the country.
SCAC Chairman Lhaki Dolma said that in order to complement royal initiatives to establish the Pema Center, the recommendations would help implement important steps to address current issues surrounding mental disorders and suicide.
The committee recommended that the government continue to provide support to improve policies, allocate resources, strengthen cross-sector partnerships, conduct research and improve data collection to create a more robust and responsive system.
The committee recommended improving counseling services in schools, training counselors in specialist areas, assigning at least one counselor to all school levels and additional counselors in schools with more than students.
The committee recommended the establishment of a uniform help center and helplines at the dzongkhag and national levels, as well as timely awareness programs. According to the committee, priority should be given to follow-up counseling sessions for suicide survivors and their families.
Other recommendations include meaningful youth engagement and the establishment of youth parks and recreation facilities in urban and rural areas, in addition to free access for youth to existing government-owned sports facilities such as parks, school grounds, institutional facilities and spiritual programs in educational institutes. .
The SCAC also calls on the government to implement the 2015 law on narcotics, psychotropic substances and substance abuse (articles 34 and 36) by creating rehabilitation centers.
One of the findings of the review report indicates that the mental health program is only managed by two employees. The national suicide prevention program, he said, has only one staff member and the budget allocated for these programs was between NU 2.5 million (M) and NU 3.5 million. respectively, which translates into a budget of NU 5 for mental health programs for each Bhutanese. .
The budget available for the suicide prevention program is 15 chhetrums for every Bhutanese.
Conclusions of the SCAC
Between 2016 and 2021, out of 553 suicide cases, 43.20% were farmers and housewives, 15.37% students, 7.7% were unemployed and 7.59% private sector employees.
According to the report, there are 177 counselors: an average counselor takes in between 500 and 1,500 students. There are 499 public schools, half of which are at the primary level. There are no counselors in primary schools.
The report shows that suicide cases are highest in the 10-24 age group (32.36%), followed by those 43 and over (26.58%); 16.81% were between 25 and 30 years old.
There are only three rehabilitation centers in the country, all in Thimphu, to deal with the growing number of alcohol and drug addictions.