Suicides in Bhutan: How the happy kingdom in the clouds lost its smile

Bhutan's capital Thimphu at night. Photo: Birger Hoppe / Under CC

Bhutan's capital Thimphu at night. Photo: Birger Hoppe / Under CC

Bhutan has made its people’s happiness a national priority. But a spate of suicides suggests it is struggling to cope with the modern world. Andrew Buncombe in the Independent:

For the emergency department of Bhutan’s largest hospital, last Tuesday was a pressing day. In the space of a few hours six people were rushed in, all suspected of having tried to commit suicide.

One of the patients, a 35-year-old housewife, said she had taken 30 sedatives after problems at home. The second, a woman of 27, had swallowed 15 paracetamol tablets after quarrelling with her husband. The third to require urgent treatment was a 17-year-old girl who was rushed in unconscious having drunk nail polisher remover after an argument with her sister. The other three cases were prisoners from the local jail who had emptied a bottle of mysterious spirit. Some reports claimed they had tried to take their lives, but officials are unsure.

By the standards of a hospital in a large city in the West the numbers might be unremarkable, but the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital is in Thimphu, capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which has a total population of less than 700,000. What’s more, this enigmatic mountainous nation is feted around the world for its gross national happiness (GNH) – a national policy in which the emotional well-being of citizens is considered more important than their financial bottom line. More:

[Photo: Birger Hoppe / Under CC]

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