Topping it up in the last Shangri-La

Topping it up in the LAst Shangri-LA

According to the World Health Organization, every year almost one million people die from suicide, which roughly corresponds to one death every 40 seconds. It is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 in some countries. Suicide is a complex issue with psychological, social, biological, cultural, and environmental factors involved. Back home in Bhutan suicide rate is 16.2 per 100,000. As of 2011 this figure ranks the kingdom as the 20th highest suicides rate in the world, and 6th highest in the Asia-Pacific region. Youth suicide increased from 24 in 2010 to 33 in 2013 and total suicide cases rose from 57 in 2010 t0 83 in 2013. This makes us question our ranking in the world as the 8th happiest country in the world.  For a nation with Gross National Happiness at the heart of every developmental activity undertaken by the government, it is distressing to learn that Bhutan is ranked 20th highest suicide rate in the world. This brings us to three common questions; what is the reason behind an unacceptably high rate of suicide in a country known for peace and happiness? Are we going wrong somewhere? What can be done to decrease the incidences of suicides?

Suicide is a complex issue with psychological, social, biological, cultural, and environmental factors involved. It is as such a challenging public health issue. Reports from around the world have shown a compelling evidence indicating that adequate prevention and treatment of depression and alcohol and substance abuse can reduce suicides rates, as well as follow up contact with those who have attempted suicide. Within Bhutan, studies have found that the lack of job opportunities, an extremely high percentage of broken families and high rate of domestic violence are considered to be major contributing factors. Moreover, higher rates of suicides are reported from rural Bhutan. 

The government of Bhutan has realized the potential of this problem from the onset and has taken corrective and preventive measures to reduce incidences of suicides. This includes appointment of trained counselors in almost every school in Bhutan.  On our part as a happiness-loving citizen, we have to play constructive roles, no matter how small. A small deed of help in time of need like this can save a person’s life. Parents should be sensitive to their children’s emotions. They should not ignore what their child is going through. This is because studies have found that ignorance of parents towards their children’s emotions and lack of proper counseling can also contribute to suicide. Our spirit of one nation one people makes more sense in the context of preventing our fellow Bhutanese citizens from taking the extreme step.  It needs participation of every one: young and old, rich and poor, parents, teachers and students, law makers and social workers to create a happy society where the news of suicide is almost nonexistent. Suicide rate of a country is strongly indicative of its happiness status. Why would anyone suicide if he /she is happy and satisfied?  Time to think. Time to act.


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