Bhutan celebrates the World Health Day 2017- Depression: Let’s Talk

Bhutan joined the global community on 7th April 2017 to raise awareness on Depression – a preventable condition which is becoming a growing public health concern in Bhutan and Globally. More than 300 million people are estimated to be affected by depression worldwide. Although depression affects people of all ages and from all walks of life, adolescents and youth are among the disproportionately affected groups. Therefore, the main event was observed at Yangchenphu Higher Secondary School in Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu, to highlight vulnerability of young people to depression.

His Excellency, Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk, Minister of Health graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. In his address, Lyonpo emphasized on the need to empower communities and individuals to enable them to identify early signs of depression and seek help from friends, parents, teachers and health care professionals. He urged all sections of society, including UN agencies and development partners to closely collaborate and strive to address issues surrounding mental health and depression. He also highlighted on the need to follow the Buddhist teaching of Middle Path, particularly in this day and age where globalization and technological advancements have produced numerous temptations around us.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Bhutan, Dr. Rui Paulo de Jesus, delivered the message of WHO-South East Asia Regional Director, Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, which was also published in the national newspaper, Kuensel. In her message, she highlighted the preventable nature of depression and strong return on investment for society when timely identification and treatment take pace, stating " Every US$ 1 investment in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return to society of US$ 4." Dr. Rui commended the Royal Government of Bhutan on their efforts to promote mental health in the country and thanked the Government for the opportunity provided to WHO to collaborate and support the country in areas of human resource capacity development and formulation of national mental health strategies and action plans, among others. Dr. Rui also reaffirmed WHO’s commitment and support towards Bhutan’s efforts to promote mental health and well-being of the Bhutanese population.

This was followed by screening of the World Health Day Song “Let’s Talk” produced by WHO-SEARO and an informative talk on depression in Bhutan by Dr Chencho Dorji, a senior Psychiatrist. The winner of the WHO-SEA Member States Mindart Competition in Category B, Mr. Surja Bahdhur Pradhan, a class XII student of Rinchen Higher Secondary School, was awarded the Plaque and Certificate by Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk and WHO Representative to Bhutan.

About 500 guests and students attending the event were also thoroughly entertained by students of Yangchenphu Higher Secondary Schools through their songs and innovative skits themed around causes of depression such as cyber bullying, personal relationship, substance abuse and inadequate support system, among others.

The event, which was jointly organized by the Ministry of Health and Yangchenphu Higher Secondary School and supported by WHO, was attended by senior government and elected officials; representatives from armed forces; monastic body; UN agencies; civil society organizations; media houses; school health coordinators and counsellors from schools in Thimphu; and students and teachers of Yangchenphu Higher Secondary School. The day’s event will be broadcast in the National Television channel. A panel discussion on depression is also organized to be broadcast on the National Television in the evening of 7th April.

7 April 2017
Prepared by Tshering Dhendup
National Professional Officer