Towards addressing the emerging mental health issue in the country

From a total of 7,521 respondents, who participated in a survey, as many as 2,185 young people reported being sad and 2,085 stressed

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic last year, new mental illness cases diagnosed has almost doubled as compared to previous years at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH).

Last year, 2,009 mental illness cases were diagnosed, and in 2019 the case reported was 1,055 and in 2018 the cases reported were 1,071. However, in 1999 the cases reported were only 151.

Psychiatric at the JDWNRH, Dr Damber Kumar Nirola said that there is a certain rise in the number of cases, which can be attributed to the pandemic.

He said that during the pandemic some of the people were visualizing the COVID-19 impacts and imagining how it is spreading.

He said that the emerging mental health issues are suicide among youth, youth substance abuse and borderline personality disorder.

The psychiatrists said that depression with mostly somatic symptoms was higher earlier, but anxiety is maximum now and a majority have panic attacks.

He also said that the cases of schizophrenia are significantly on the rise, suicide has been on the rise and borderline personality disorder surfacing now.

“The mental illness issues were there over the decades, the only thing is it was not visualized. Now younger generations are becoming more intelligent emotion,” he said.

He also cited an example where he treated a patient in her 80s. The reason attributed was because of the aging population, they were brought to cities and they are kept locked inside.

“Home environment is not good in many households. Home environment is the most important,” he said.

With emerging issues of mental illness in the country, the Ministry of Education (MoE) in partnership with UNICEF Bhutan launched ‘OnMyMind” campaign on Friday, which aims to increase awareness on mental health and help strengthen support-seeking behavior among children and adolescents across the country.

The “OnMyMind” campaign focuses on securing investment and action to protect and promote the mental health of all children and young people, with a focus on bringing an end to neglect, abuse, and childhood adversities that drive poor mental health and life outcomes.

During the launch, UNICEF Bhutan Representative Dr Will Parks said, “At any stage of our lives, any one of us may experience positive mental health, with the ability to cope well with both good days and the bad, to encountering bouts of serious distress to suffering long-term and disabling conditions.”

He said that the magnitude of the need for mental health and psychosocial support around the world is simply not being matched by the response it demands. And all too often, mental health systems remain heavily focused on addressing symptoms rather than developing environments that promote well-being and prevent distress in the first place.

He also mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic has, however, raised the visibility and relevance of mental health, flagging the need to strengthen psychosocial support in new and important ways. It has highlighted that mental health problems can affect anyone, creating a window for dialogue, action, and investment.

“No one should have to deal with mental health challenges on their own. Yet, far too many children, young people and adults still do. We can change that. And that change starts with one moment, one conversation, one question,” he said.

UNICEF in partnership with the career education and counseling division and the youth network of the Youth Centre Division, Department of Youth and Sports, MoE conducted a rapid online survey among adolescents aged 10-24 last month.

A total of 7,521 respondents participated in the survey, of which 4% were male and 58% were female.

The UNICEF Bhutan Representative said that the data is, however, not representative but indicative of how adolescents are feeling, while a detailed analysis is underway and will be shared in the coming months.

The preliminary findings show that as many as 2,185 young people reported being sad and 2,085 stressed.

543 young people reported being depressed in the past few months, among those who reported experiencing stress, the highest number of responses were from adolescents aged 15-19 with the number higher among females.

2,253 young people expressed concerns about learning especially having too much schoolwork, a majority of those who reported being worried about their examinations are adolescents within 15-19 years and females.

When asked on the emotional support they find most helpful, 3,361 of the respondents said they would like to be asked how they were doing and being listened to. Again, this hope is recorded higher among those aged 15-19 and among females.

During the event, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said that one of the reasons for mental illness issues is attributed to material problem, lack of care and support and impact of the social media users.

“Most important is to recognized early signs and symptoms of the mental health,” Lyonpo said.

However, with the increasing cases of mental illness, national referral hospital only has two psychiatrists and only one psychiatric nurse.

If you feeling any kinds of mental illness, reach out to 112.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu