Bhutanese refugees increasingly turn to suicide

Photo from The Atlantic, Salim Ali

Photo from The Atlantic, Salim Ali

The Atlantic reported on the terrible and heartbreaking number of suicides among the Bhutanese refugees population in the United States and Nepal.

They opened with the story of 20-year-old Mitra Mishra who hung himself next to the soccer field he had been playing on with friends the day before.

His childhood friend had heard the news over the phone while living in the same refugee camp in Nepal the boys had called home.  He was shocked.

“I was in Nepal and he only sometimes used to call me and he never shared [those] things [with] me,” Dulal says. “What’s going to happen to their family after that, I was thinking. He was the only person who spoke English in their family.”

Mishra is not the only Bhutanese refugee who has taken their own life within the last year.  There have been 16 suicides within the US and many more suicides and suicide attempts in Nepalese camps.  While some may try to argue that suicide rates have generally increased, it does not compair to the Bhutanese refugee population.

The study team confirmed the government’s suspicions; the problem was endemic. The global suicide rate per 100,000 people–how suicide rates are calculated–is 16, and the rate for the general U.S. population is 12.4. The Bhutanese rate is much higher: 20.3 among U.S. resettled refugees and 20.7 among the refugee camp population. A handful of suicides were reported among other refugee groups during the same period as the CDC study, but nothing like the number among the Bhutanese.

Please read the article to gain a greater understanding of the complexity of the situation.  But it is also very clear that better mental medical care for refugees in the United States and really any kind of mental health care in refugee camps would help better address this terrible problem.

This can also be seen as a cry to communities with Bhutanese refugee populations.  Connect with your new neighbors and give them a friend in their new country.  Help to save lives, strengthen your community and welcome people to their new home.

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