EDITORIAL : So that we are not beaten hollow

THIMPHU (Kuensel/ANN) - For many Bhutanese September 10 passed without any special significance. There was nothing out of the common about the day that just slipped by.

But for the members of the society who are in the know and care, to let the World Suicide Prevention Day go conspicuously unmarked was more than a little unsettling.  

We might ever and anon pad ourselves on the back and sometimes get helplessly carried away as we claw in and prod into Gross National Happiness to give it a new dimension and meaning, but a new dawn has arrived and with it new challenges at our doors.

The temptation to bask in our Shangri-La image can be irresistible. We are clearly not done with it yet. But the need to invoke a reality check to shake us out of delusion is becoming more urgent by the day.

Modern Bhutan is a story of challenges and opportunities. And in the fast-paced world we live in, we cannot do without putting our best foot foremost to succeed in shaping the kind of society we aspire for, built and nurtured around the idea of welfare and happiness of the citizens.

Symptomatic cracks are beginning to show, however, and these tell-tale signs of a society breaking under the strain of development priorities and needs must not go a-begging.

Among the many serious problems confronting our small society today, suicide is a rapidly-growing concern. A recent report by a well-placed world body was shocked to learn that suicide is among the leading causes of death in the country after alcohol liver disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and deaths along of traffic accidents.  

In a GNH country that is widely known and acknowledged for putting collective happiness and the well-being of the population at the front and centre of her development policies and initiatives, this fact does not seat well.

In 2018, almost seven Bhutanese took their own lives every month—at least one every week. And we know that many cases go unreported due to stigma attached to suicide. But the thing is we know who are vulnerable, which is to say that we also know why people choose to put an end to their lives.

Going by the records, it appears that the need to rush with development is pushing our young people and those from the economically disadvantaged backgrounds to the fringes—youth unemployment has been on the rise and failing agriculture is leaving the villages empty. When they are at the end of their tether for long, they have only to take sad and drastic measures.

Suicide prevention should be more than mere lip service because it reflects the health of our society. If our development policies are falling short, it may now be time to rethink because development without happy and contented citizens will be meaningless and costly.

In the absence of prevention action plan and strategies—three-year action plan 2015-2018 cannot be considered relevant—there is a need for one urgently. And every effort must be made so that we are not beaten hollow in this endeavour.

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  • EDITORIAL : So that we are not beaten hollow

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