Suicide Epidemic

“Suicide is a permanent solution to the temporary problem” – Phil Dinahue

suiciceAfter so much of work, I took a firm decision to resume my writing. This work, however, is not to be construed as a research paper whatsoever. I may research this alarming topic for publication in the Bhutan Law Journal, and I also have few important and emerging issues to be written for the Bhutan Law Journal. But, in this writing, my focus is on the social menace of SUICIDE – and I am afraid this issue is not being discussed in any public discourse.

Yesterday, a friend of mine was showing me a picture of two young people who have committed suicide, and later, it was confirmed through Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) that they were the students of Chumey High School, Bumthang. This is not a new headline, but an old continued story. Cemetery is often crowded with young dead population and age-old people and parents are seen crying helplessly. Isn’t it a paradox? However, I am not saying that old people should die first and young people should cry for them, but when young people are seen killing themselves but out of neglect and carelessness of old people, then it is a total absurd. I shall first display the data of suicide trend in Bhutan from 2009-2013.

Suicide Trend in Bhutan

Suicide trend in Bhutan has tipped in recent years, and it has become a contagious disease. Research by World Health Organisation shows that the problem of suicide has shifted from Western Europe to Eastern Europe and now it is shifting to Asia. And it is certainly true. Kuensel writes that from 2009-2013, the average annual growth rate of suicide in Bhutan is 9.4%, and a total number of 378 suicide cases were reported with the Royal Bhutan Police (Table.1)

Table 1: Suicide by Gender

Gender Frequency Percent
Female 124 32.8
Male 254 67.2
Total 378 100.0

Amongst the total number of suicide cases, 44 were between the ages of 26-30 which recorded the highest number (Table 2).

Table 2: Suicide by age category

Age Category Frequency Percent
<20 76 20.82
21-25 60 16
26-30 48 44
31-35 47 13.15
36-40 33 12.88
41-45 19 9.04
46-50 19 5.21
51-55 15 5.21
56-60 13 4.11
>61 35 9.59
Total 365 100

Similarly, suicide cases were highest within farming occupation and students (Table 3).

Table 3: Suicide by occupation

Occupation Frequency Percent
Farmer 64 30.77
Student 57 27.40
Private employee 23 11.06
Labourer 15 7.21
ESP and driver 10 4.81
RBP/RBA 10 4.81
Civil servant 7 3.37
Corporate employee 7 3.37
Housewife 6 2.88
Unemployed 5 2.40
Monk/nun/gomchen 4 1.92

And the number is increasing every year (Table 4), and it must have crossed 100 this year.

Table 4: Suicide by years

Year Frequency Percent
2009 72 19.05
2010 57 15.08
2011 65 17.20
2012 88 23.28
2013 96 25.40
Total 378 100

(Source: Kuenselonline, see http://www.kuenselonline.com/suicide-trend-in-bhutan-from-2009-to-2013/)

Why suicide in school?

Let me analyse why suicide has tipped so much in recent years in Bhutan, and that too in educational institutions. We often say – why people should go to the extent of killing and hurting themselves, that it is spiritually not virtuous, and so and so forth. What we fail to appreciate is to understand and comprehend the situation of a person who committed suicide. Whatever the causes may be, let me put down from the perspectives of the educational settings. The following can be done:

  • Education Policy: – Once upon a time, I was a student, and I know how schools are functioning. All most 100% of the schools throughout Bhutan has strict disciplinary rules and regulation. Students are not allowed to be in a relationship – in a sense that boys and girls are not supposed to form a partner. My friends were called in the Principal’s chamber for several times for making a girlfriend, they were beaten up, punished, suspended, and terminated. I just reflect myself to the case of how Drujegang High School principal in Dagana brutally canned 17 year-old student on August 22 because of boy-girl affairs. The question is, can’t we liberalize this conventional education system? I sincerely think less risk when boy and a girl love each other. If such system is not permitted, then what is the use of co-education system? Teachers and parents may be scared of risk of unwanted sexual behavior, however, there should be enough sexual education to end this fear. Except for biology text book, there is no other classes that educate the student on risk of unsafe sexual behavior. Through educational reform, society can benefit and realize the pursuit of GNH.
  • Parental Guidance: – Often, I tell this to every person I talk with. Are our parents responsible? Perhaps a big No. I usually watch a TV programme “Know your Child” and it is surprising that many parents failed to answer their child’s favorite coulour. Children are kept themselves, parents are ignorant of what they are doing, what TV programme are they watching, what clothes they wear, etc. and most children does not get parental love and affection. If parents take care of their children, I think children will ask for guidance, information, and learn more as they grow up. Unfortunately, society has changed wherein a father is busy playing archery, mother is busy in gambling, and a child is left at home alone. What does this contribute? A real psychological, emotional, and physical sickness for children. When a child grow up, it add to the suicidal number.

I believe that the main single cause of the suicide epidemic of recent years is the breakdown of the extended family that has occurred almost everywhere. The problem is that people are engrossed with the electronics and technology and least bothered of their family belongingness. When people are united so well with the electronics, ultimately, their separation cost a lot for their children. What can we do? We can’t force them to stay united, nor can we force them to marry again. However, we need to educate them the importance of parenting so that children are taken well care of.

  • Community Support: – A sense of belonging and being connected to and supported by a community is an important protective factor to prevent suicide. Community advocacy on suicide, understanding child’s personal behavior and growth can help prevent suicide in the community. Preventing social menace like suicide can’t be tackled by that way – writing out prescriptions like a doctor and then running off to see another patient – but by working alongside in the study of social problems in the community, doing anything possible to deepen the understanding of the roots of the problem. Local government and community has huge responsibility to make a better place to live in.
  • Government Initiatives: – I should not be writing this, but my conscience force me to do so. What is government response towards this growing epidemic? I rather have several questions than answer. It is something where government is least bothered of. Much initiative needs to be come from the political will.

The above points are intuitive explanation of suicide epidemic in Bhutan. Whatever I have said is not exhaustive, but I hope that the readers will at least think from the wider perspectives to prevent suicide. It is said that youth who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress, therefore, parents, teachers, friends, and community are in a key position to pick up from these signs and help them. I am hopeful that government, schools, and communities will be committed to making suicide prevention a priority – and are empowered to take the correct actions – we can help youth before they engage in behavior with irreversible consequences.

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