[We Care, We Share] Inspiring story: Caring for the mental wellbeing of Bhutan



We Care We Share


A UN Bhutan’s initiative for resilience tools for COVID-19


Caring for the mental wellbeing of Bhutan


A familiar voice echoes from the speakers in the hall. Amidst seated women and men in orange, white, blue dresses, Dr Chencho Dorji is halfway through his presentation. This is one of the many trainings conducted by the National COVID-19 Mental Health and Psychosocial Response Team (MHPRT), which is led by Dr Chencho. More than 15,000 Bhutanese in different dzongkhags have been trained so far.


After having worked 30 plus years in the government health system, Dr Chencho was superannuated and started his retirement life last year. However since the start of 2020, with the concern and growing focus on mental health, he finds himself thoroughly re-engaged and committed in expanding his capacity as a psychiatrist in COVID-19 responses and public health areas.


He became the country’s first trained psychiatrist in 1999, fulfilling his high school dream of becoming a mental health expert. “I feel immensely satisfied that my profession gave me the unique opportunity to get into the core of human mind and learn from them. I believe no other profession can give you such a privilege!”


Dr Chencho and his team have been providing Psychological First Aid (PFA) training to more than 15,000 health workers, De-Suungs, Security Personnel and other volunteers ever since the start of COVID-19. PFA is an essential tool for frontline workers in crisis situations, comprising of five key steps: Being prepared in advance with knowledge, understanding and experience; Looking and identifying people who need priority attention; Listening actively to understand the needs of the people; Linking people with support services, specialized care and teaching self-care.


“During this COVID-19 pandemic, frontline health workers, security personnel and volunteers face a double burden of having to work under stressful circumstances as well as face the risk of exposure to the coronavirus” said Dr. Chencho. “They have to learn to take care of their own physical and psychological needs so that they remain healthy and continue to provide effective services” he added.


In addition, the Mental Health and Psychosocial Response Team (MHPRT), has established five 24×7 telephone counselling helplines at the national level, twenty-eight other helplines in the districts and Thromdes. A unique system of multi-disciplinary approach on voluntary basis was also adopted, where people with counselling skills and experience were invited to volunteer and team up at their local levels and liaise with health workers and other treatment providers.


In a time of global crisis and uncertainty, adding to the fear of contracting the virus and new realities of working from home, lack of physical contact, online classes, curfews and unemployment, it is important to look after our mental wellbeing as much as our physical health.


“COVID-19 pandemic is causing so much fear, pain and suffering in the world. Bhutan has a small population and we must do everything to protect its people – physically, emotionally and mentally,” said Dr Chencho.

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