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WHO South East Asia J Public Health. 2017 Apr;6(1):39-44. doi: 10.4103/2224-3151.206163.

Policy and governance to address depression and suicide in Bhutan: The national suicide-prevention strategy.

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World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia, New Delhi, India; University of Newcastle, Australia.
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, Thimphu, Bhutan.
Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Bhutan, Thimphu, Bhutan.
Department of Traditional Medicine Services, Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Bhutan, Thimphu, Bhutan.
Department of Psychiatry, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, Thimphu, Bhutan.
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital; Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan, Thimphu, Bhutan.


Suicide and mental disorders are a growing public health issue in Bhutan, due in part to a rapidly transitioning society. The burden of suicide has been recognized by the Royal Government of Bhutan and, as a result, it introduced the country's first ever national suicide-prevention plan in 2015. The 3-year action plan takes a holistic approach to making suicide-prevention services a top social priority, through strengthening suicide-prevention policies, promoting socially protective measures, mitigating risk factors and reaching out to individuals who are at risk of suicide or affected by incidents of suicide. This article documents Bhutan's policy and governance for addressing depression and suicide within the context of its national suicide-prevention strategy, examines progress and highlights lessons for future directions in suicide prevention. Since the endorsement of the 3-year action plan by the prime minister's cabinet, the implementation of suicide-prevention measures has been accelerated through a high-level national steering committee. Activities include suicide-prevention actions by sectors such as health, education, monastic communities and police; building capacity of gatekeepers; and improving the suicide information system to inform policies and decision-making. Suicide-prevention activities have become the responsibility of local governments, paving the way for suicide prevention as an integral mandate across sectors and at grass-root levels in the Kingdom of Bhutan.

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