Journal of Bhutan Studies, Vol 30, Summer 2014

1. Traditional and Modern Understandings of Mental Illness in Bhutan: Preserving the Benefits of Each to Support Gross National Happiness by Joseph D. Calabrese and Dr Chencho Dorji

The pursuit of appropriate mental health treatment in Bhutan must bring together and balance the need for the most advanced and appropriate medical and psychotherapeutic interventions with the need to avoid the disruption of very useful cultural traditions that are already in place in Bhutanese communities. A crucial question, in view of this priority, is: which conditions are modern psychiatric and psychological treatments the best for and which conditions are adequately addressed with traditional approaches, including traditional medicine (gSo-ba Rig-pa), shamanic ritual treatment, or Buddhist rituals and practice?

In this paper, the authors approach this question as clinicians who have worked with Bhutanese psychiatric patients and as researchers of international mental health and traditional healing practices. The goal of the paper is to view mental health and mental illness in Bhutan through the lens of Medical Anthropology (with its broad cross-cultural perspective), in terms of their clinical training and practice in Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry, and in terms of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness policy and the related idea of “development with values.”

2. Suicide Trends in Bhutan from 2009 to 2013 by Kuenzang Lhadon

This paper focuses on the increasing trend of suicide in Bhutan over a period of five years from 2009-2013, and argues that there is a need of immediate attention from the government or any other relevant organization to set up a helpline, or to put in place any strategy to prevent/reduce it. For a small country like Bhutan, an average annual suicide growth rate of 9.4 percent is an alarmingly high one. A descriptive analysis of this time series data is used to generate comparison of suicide cases by region, gender, occupation and age group to identify which of the groups need the most attention.

3. Ahom-Bhutan Relations with Specific Reference to Royal Bhutanese Embassy Visiting Ahom Capital in 1801 by J. N. Phukan

This paper is confined to the period when the Ahom power came into contact with Bhutan. This happened towards the beginning of the seventeenth century when the Ahom kingdom annexed Kamrup and Darrang to the north of which lay the territory of Bhutan.

Thereafter, for more than a hundred years the relations with Bhutan were primarily dealt with by the Darrang Raja who was made a tributary Raja by the Ahom king. However, whenever required, the Raja was assisted by Ahom force to deal with situation.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, there were troubles in the Ahom kingdom. Among these were the Moamaria uprising that spread even to lower Assam. The rebellious prince of Darrang Krishna Narayan with his supporters took the help of Burendazes, mercenary soldiers from Bengal. When Capt. Welsh came to Assam to take them back, many of them with Krishna Narayan took shelter in the bordering areas of Bhutan and created troubles there.

Bhutanese authorities made appeal to the Barphukan of Guwahati. To ascertain the situation he sent an embassy to Bhutan in 1801. In return, the King of Bhutan sent a royal embassy to the Ahom court that arrived at Jorhat, the Ahom capital in 1802. The envoys were well received by the King and the Prime Minister. They brought many presents that were valuable at that time. The Ahom and the Prime Minister also sent valuable presents to the Bhutan King.

4. Estimating the Gender Gap of Adults’ Education and Health in Bhutan by Chhimi Dem

Several studies in developing countries suggest that narrowing the gender gap in education and health has both economic and social benefits. Bhutan is an important country to study gender because, traditionally and by law, women and men enjoy equal status. This paper explores the gender gap in formal education and mental and physical health among adults in Bhutan.

The 2010 cross-sectional survey data collected for Gross National Happiness (GNH) Indicators by the Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) in all the 20 districts of Bhutan (n=6510 individuals) was used. It regressed formal education and various indicators of health against gender, region, age, income, and religion. Then the differences in levels of schooling and health between women and men in the eastern region, which is reputed to be the most remote and least developed region are examined.

The gender gap persists. Men have 27% more years of schooling than women, 4.80 fewer reported sick days during the previous 30 days, 1.63 fewer negative emotions, and a 10% lower probability of reporting mental distress than women. Men in the eastern region are 6% less likely to be educated than women of their same region. However, men in the eastern region are 7% less likely to report having a stressful life than women of their own region.

Despite the tradition of gender equality and the laws supporting gender equity in Bhutan, this study finds that women lag behind men in schooling and health. The country needs to implement policies to narrow the gender gap.