A few days after the suicide, there is a presentation on “Crime Prevention.” Attendance is mandatory for all students, including day scholars. There is lots of useful information given to the students about alcohol consumption and how to secure your home when you go on vacation (for all those homeowners among the college crowd), but in the three hour presentation, sandwiched between drug education and definitions of petty vs. first degree crimes, there is a short power point squeezed in titled “LIFE.”
The first slide in the deck says “A Ghost Called Suicide.”
Police Sir, Dasho, who I have met before at the the Drubchen in Trongsa, is the one giving the topical talks. He is accompanied by two or three other police officers and a driver. Police Sir is tall for a Bhutanese. He has a rounded face and speaks english well. He is going back and forth between Dzongkha and English. All the while, one of his posse is taking photos of his speech and the audience. One of the first lines of his speech in English is “…we don’t know why this act was committed…” (in reference to the suicide). Several times he asks all of the students if they have any information on why. Each time he waits, as if to see if someone will raise their hand, then stand and give their report on the spot. No one does. The pauses are long there is palpable sense of pressure on the students, and perhaps a little desperation of Police Sir.
One of the next lines that I can understand is “…brown sugar has suicide effects. The mild soothing feeling becomes a feeling of getting into suicide” And after a few quotes from Churchill about courage, the presentation is ended rather abrutly. There is an overall mood to the message which feels like “suicide is ridiculous.” I am not witness to any compassion for those, especially the boy here, who choose to make such a choice; only for their family who is rendered one son and brother… less.
Not knowing the native language, it’s hard to say what was expressed and how well it was received. Such a lengthy duration has left the patience of the audience, without doubt, thin; rending their facial feedback as potentially unrelated. It could have also been discomfort — by the cold or hunger or maybe with the topic itself? I cannot draw any conclusions in confidence.
In 2015, The Royal Government of Bhutan put a three year plan into place for suicide prevention. In part, this document was spurred by the fact that suicide is on the rise in Bhutan, especially among youth, and among youth, especially in females. It is also inspired by the 2014 World Health Organization’s launch of a global imperative to raise awareness about suicide around the world. I am surprised, then, that this presentation doesn’t include some quick intervention tips for students. Helping them to identify those who might be at risk for suicide, be suffering from depressed or how to take someone’s talk about suicide with appropriate measures of seriousness.
Admittedly - this is only me mapping “Western Psychology” expectations onto the situation here on campus. It is fair to say that every culture really needs support, but who am I to say how they need it? In fact, it’s a question I find amazingly complex and interesting. As a Buddhist Psychology major, it is enriching to see a real collective culture response to a suicide (or any social issue). I wish I was better equip to understand how the unspoken, high context, and shared wisdom is really at play in their methods of healing. I’ll be delving into a few books from this point forward: Crazy like Us and Collective Wisdom: And the trap of Collective Folly to see if I can shed more light on this very rich and textured topic.
Bear with me while I learn more!