47 unnatural deaths this year

The numbers of suicide and unnatural cases are on the rise. 

According to records held by the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), this year there were 12 unnatural deaths in the country and 35 suicide cases.

This year, Sarpang dzongkhag recorded the highest number of suicide cases in the country with 9 (5 female and 4 male) and in the year 2019-2020 Punakha recorded 6 unnatural death cases: four due to drowning and two due to alcohol.

 In 2019, there were 38 cases of unnatural deaths in the country. According to 2020 reports, there were 22 males and 13 females who committed suicide.

 A police official from Punakha talking with Business Bhutan said unnatural death cases include suicide, drowning, and motor vehicle accidents. 

As per Punakha police, there was a group of students who came for a picnic and while swimming in the Punatsangchhu River, a student was washed away by the river. “Recently, a lady also drowned in the river; she was said to be mentally unsound.” 

The police also said that reasons for unnatural death are excessive consumption of alcohol, fishing, swimming and while crossing river.

The Chief Program Analyst with National Suicide Prevention Program, Yeshi Wangdi, said with the completion of three years of the action plan, the ministry reviews the action plan, and based on the action plan the ministry develops another five-year action plan in line with the 12th five year plan. “It is a multi-sectoral approach and every government agency, non-government organization, and civil society organization has significant roles that require a concerted effort in building efficient health care services.”

He also said that suicide is a complex issue and the incident which immediately precedes the act is not always the single causal factor, adding, often, several issues build up over time, leaving the individual feeling overwhelmed and hopeless in the face of continued challenges.

“The Suicide Prevention is a broad and coordinated system working with a wide range of partners, organizations and sectors including people who have been affected by the suicide and the onus does not lie on the health sector alone.”

Meanwhile, every individual including the community plays a vital role in suicide prevention by noticing, asking, and supporting the most vulnerable members to access help and support if they are going through a tough time, he said.

For the success of the suicide prevention strategy, stakeholders from relevant agencies including the local government have been established to implement the action plan. The suicide registry system has been established in all dzongkhags to generate data for a better planning process in the future. 

For suicide prevention, Counseling has started at Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan to build the capacity of service providers along with choedshey leyrim (spiritual counseling) being carried out in schools to prevent suicide cases in preserving human life and promoting happiness in society. Even the counseling services provide a hotline for those who do not want to disclose their identity.

“District suicide prevention has been operated through the establishment of the Dzongkhag suicide response team led by Dasho Dzongdag,” he said.

Besides, , he said most self-harm is a way of coping with emotional pain, negative feelings, and memories, adding, “Individuals who self-harm are usually responding to painful experiences, pressures and commuting physically about their emotions.”

According to the suicide registry maintained in all dzongkhags, those aged between 20-40 are found to be most affected.

“Sending a suicidal person to a counselor is not enough for the prevention of suicide,” he said, “Development and up-skilling of services providers (stakeholders) are only as effective as access to these services. Suicide attempts are made based on hesitancy to access support including fear of judgment and stigma, lack of distance or lack of adequate services.” 

Further, he said every responsible relevant partner, government agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs), private sector, communities, and the individuals as stated in the action plan should come forward and take an equal share of responsibilities and accountability in implementing the activities in the prevention of suicide in the society. 

The official said that media houses in the country play a greater role in creating effective news stories that inform the public and increase awareness about suicide and its complexities while reducing the risk of additional suicide cases in the country.

A psychiatrist, Dr. Damber K. Nirola, talking to Business Bhutan said, the most common problem in committing suicide is due to mental problems like depression. According to a survey, almost 80% of the victims do not seek help and try to commit suicide. “We urge people who are in depression or need to come forward and seek help.” 

A 28-year-old man who is currently working at Semtokha site, Jigme Wangchuk said, youths indulge in suicide because of lack of prior care, love and attachment with their family. “To prevent suicide, every youth needs a loving and caring surrounding or be engaged in some kind of work.” 

Sonam Tashi from Thimphu