Increasing awareness on mental health issues

The State of the World’s Children Report 2021 being launched in the capital on 8 October

SONAM PENJOR and SANGAY RABTEN

Thimphu

The Ministry of Education in partnership with UNICEF Bhutan launched a campaign called ‘OnMyMind’ this week.

The campaign aims to increase awareness on mental health issues and help strengthen support-seeking behavior among children and adolescents across the country.

Along with the campaign, UNICEF also released its flagship publication, The State of the World’s Children Report, which examines mental health with a special focus on how risk and protective factors at home, school and community shape mental health outcomes for children and adolescents.

The ‘OnMyMind’ campaign also 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.  

The State of the World’s Children Report argues that we now have a unique opportunity to promote good mental health for every child, protect vulnerable children and care for children.

According to the State of the World’s Children Report 2021, across the world, mental disorders are a significant and often ignored cause of suffering that interfere with children’s and young people’s health and education and their ability to reach their full potential.

It is estimated that more than 13 percent of adolescents aged 10-19 live with a diagnosed mental disorder as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). This represents 86-million (M) adolescents aged 15-19 and 80- M adolescents aged 10-14.

“Anxiety and depression make up about 40 percent of these diagnosed mental disorders; the others include attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, intellectual disability, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, autism, schizophrenia and group of personality disorder,” it states.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Chair of the National Commission for Women and Children, Dr Tandi Dorji, said: “We don’t talk about mental health issues. Even if we talk about it, people don’t understand it. And in the country, we have had long culturally of accepting mild and moderate mental health.”

“Without really knowing, that some section of people had, it’s because of the attitude of the stigma and discrimination. That from many years we were unable to provide the services that much required by the people,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo further added that health workers generally did not chose to specialized in this field because there was stigma for them who are taking care for the people with mental health issues.  ‘

UNICEF Bhutan Representative Dr Will Parks said that 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, and one question,” he said.

Dr Will Parks further added that the uncertainty, isolation and loss around Covid-19 are profoundly impacting children, young people and caregivers everywhere. We are living through the biggest shared psychological distress since the Second World War.

“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.

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.

Dr Wills said 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.

The Representative added that Bhutan is a beacon of hope for the region and the world he pursuit of good mental health by creating a whole of Government, whole of society and whole of lifecycle enabling environment would not be impossible. Not for Bhutan.

“For more than a year and half now we – parents, teachers, and caregivers around the world have asked so much of our children and young people to stay home, to wait and among others, to be brave in the face of never-ending uncertainty,” Dr Will Parks said.

Meanwhile, UNICEF in partnership with the Career Education and Counseling Division and the youth network of the Youth Centre Division, Department of Youth and Sports ran a rapid online survey among adolescents aged 10-24 last month.

A total of 7,521 respondents participated in the survey, of which 41 per cent were male and 58 percent were females.

Some of the findings revealed 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 numbers of responses were from adolescents aged 15-19 with the number higher among females.

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