Anxiety, most common mental health issue among youth

Anxiety has been the most common mental health issue among the youth in Bhutan. This is according to data reported in the Health Ministry’s Annual Health Bulletin over the years. In the last report released last year, anxiety made up 35 per cent of the cases reported on mental and behavioural disorder among youth. People with an anxiety disorder may experience excessive fear or worry about a specific situation.

Records show that there were around 2,600 cases of anxiety among youth aged between five and 24 years from 2020 to 2022. From more than 620 cases in 2020, the number shot up to over 1,170 in 2021 during the COVID laden years. The number slightly decreased to 995 in 2022.

Dr Damber Kumar Nirola, a psychiatrist at the national referral hospital says that among the different types of anxiety, panic disorder is the most common issue among Bhutanese youth.

Panic disorder is a condition when a person gets a panic attack from time to time, which causes physical reactions such as racing of heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling and muscle tension.

“When it comes to panic disorder, sometimes the person who comes to seek help is not able to identify what triggered that. So they keep having these repeated panic attacks, and then, once they have had few attacks in the past, they start worrying about having an attack and it has to impair their functioning in order to call it a diagnosis,” said  Dr Damber Kumar Nirola, a psychiatrist.

Counselors in schools say students with anxiety are usually not able to concentrate in the class and function properly in their day to day lives. They added that they usually refer the children to hospitals if they show severe symptoms.

“We do get clients with symptoms of anxiety and when they have the symptoms, what the clients share is that they are not really able to focus well in the classes in the school or their ability to concentrate and pay attention is being affected, which will ultimately have an impact on their academic achievement. Their sleep pattern is also disturbed, so they’re not able to sleep well and then when that happens, again the symptoms may increase,” said Tashi Wangmo, School Counsellor at Jigme Namgyel Lower Secondary School.

According to Dr Nirola, the causes of anxiety such as panic disorder are biological, psychological or social. Biological causes are due to genetics, where a person has a family history of mental disorder. The psychological causes are due to the mentality of an individual. The social causes are due to the environment an individual is exposed to.

“I think the most common cause that is among the young people here is the psychological one. The psychological resilience, in comparison to people in the past, has gone down. So, they seem to react more dramatically or in a more anxious manner to any of the situations. So it’s the mind that is creating all these panic attacks rather than actually the biological cause,” said Dr Damber Kumar Nirola.

As a self help remedy during anxiety episodes, Dr Nirola recommends the person to do breathing exercises to calm themselves down.

Individuals in need of support for mental health issue in the country are advised to contact the PEMA Secretariat at their toll-free number 1010 or 112.

Singye Dema

Edited by Kipchu

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