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Breaking the Stigma: Understanding and Improving Mental Health in Bhutan

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

Mental well-being is one of the nine domains of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan, yet the lack of understanding about mental health issues has resulted in stigma, discrimination, and even trauma that Bhutanese people suffer. In this article, we will delve into the state of mental health in Bhutan, the common disorders that Bhutanese people face, and ways to improve the mental health system in the country.


A civil officer with monks at an RMA event.

First, let's take a look at the prevalence of mental health issues in Bhutan.


According to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the biggest predictors of mental illness in the developing world are physical health and poverty levels. A recent meta-analysis of worldwide mental health rates estimates that one in four people in the world has depression and anxiety. In Bhutan, the most common mental health problem that people seek help for is anxiety disorders, followed by substance abuse and depression.



But why do so many Bhutanese people suffer from mental health issues?


One of the major reasons is the lack of understanding and awareness about mental health. Many Bhutanese people tend to think that physical health is more important than mental health and do not seek professional help when in distress. Additionally, the cultural and societal stigma surrounding mental health prevents many people from seeking help and leads to discrimination and trauma.


So, what can be done to improve the state of mental health in Bhutan?


One of the key solutions is to increase access to mental health services. Currently, there are only a limited number of clinical counsellors and rehabilitation facilities in Bhutan, which makes it difficult for people living in remote areas to access mental health services. There is a need to increase the number of clinical counsellors in each dzongkhag and to provide training for health care workers to understand the role of clinical counsellors in hospitals and how to spot and refer mental health problems.


Another important solution is to address addiction in a trauma-informed way. According to research, a combination of counselling and medication is usually necessary for recovery from a mental health disorder. However, current laws in Bhutan criminalize substance use and do not offer treatment for the underlying trauma that leads to addiction. Instead, there needs to be a shift towards offering treatment for addiction before penalizing individuals.


Lastly, there is a need for laws around the confidentiality of medical information to protect the emotional safety of clients. Effective counselling is not possible without emotional safety, which is built on confidentiality. There needs to be consequences, accountability, and regulations in place to ensure that the confidentiality of clients is protected.




In conclusion, mental health is an important issue that needs to be addressed in Bhutan. By increasing access to mental health services, addressing addiction in a trauma-informed way, and protecting the confidentiality of clients, we can work towards breaking the stigma and improving the mental health of Bhutanese people.



Key Takeaways:


Mental health is an important issue in Bhutan that needs to be addressed


The most common mental health problems faced by Bhutanese people are anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and depression


The lack of understanding and awareness about mental health and societal stigma prevent many people from seeking help



Improving the mental health system in Bhutan requires increasing access to mental health services, addressing addiction in a trauma-informed way, and protecting the confidentiality of clients


By breaking the stigma, we can work towards improving the mental health of Bhutanese people.




Questions to Consider:

What can be done to increase access to mental health services in Bhutan?

How can we address addiction in a trauma-informed way?

What are the most common mental health issues faced by Bhutanese people and how can they be effectively treated?

How can we reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in Bhutanese society?

How can we ensure that mental health professionals receive the necessary training and resources to provide high-quality care?

What steps can be taken to protect the confidentiality of patients seeking mental health services?

How can we address the impact of poverty and physical health on mental well-being in Bhutan?

How can we involve families and communities in promoting mental health and preventing mental illness?

What can be done to support the long-term recovery of those who have experienced trauma or abuse?

How do you think we can tackle and improve mental health in Bhutan?

  • 0%Increase access to mental health services

  • 0%Address addiction in a trauma-informed way

  • 0% Educate the public about mental health

  • 0%Other (please specify)

You can vote for more than one answer.



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