Business Bhutan - - Editorial -

A re­cent re­port on men­tal health sta­tus of ado­les­cents in South-East Asia re­vealed that Bhutan has the high­est num­ber of (24.6%) smok­ers in the re­gion.

Bhutan also has the high­est num­ber of ado­les­cents us­ing other to­bacco prod­ucts at 29.3% fol­lowed by Ti­mor-Leste (27.1%) and Thai­land (14%).

De­spite com­plete ban on to­bacco sales in the coun­try, to­bacco use re­mains high among 13-17 year-olds, which con­sti­tutes 9.4% of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion.

About 24.2% of ado­les­cents in Bhutan cur­rently use al­co­hol. Bhutan also has the high­est num­ber of ado­les­cents cur­rently us­ing mar­i­juana at 12%, fol­lowed by Thai­land at 5.3%.

Sri Lanka tops the list in terms of mul­ti­ple sub­stance use by stu­dents aged 13-17 (26.5%), fol­lowed by Bhutan (20.3%) and Ti­mor-Leste (9.5%).

Youth in the re­gion are get­ting ini­ti­ated into al­co­hol and to­bacco use at in­creas­ingly younger ages than ever.

The data in the re­port are from the lat­est round of the global school­based stu­dent health sur­veys im­ple­mented by the mem­ber states of the WHO South-East Asia re­gion. Now, if this is not alarm­ing, what is? Every­body knows sub­stance abuse is bad. Then why this trend? Are we ad­vo­cat­ing enough? And if we are, why is it not work­ing?

Re­search has shown that youth re­sort to al­co­hol and drugs to rebel, if they feel they do not “fit in.” They also do sub­stance abuse if they have feel­ings of empti­ness and worth­less­ness. Many times, it also starts with ex­per­i­ment­ing af­ter which they are hooked for life. The fact that drugs and al­co­hol are eas­ily avail­able in the (black) mar­ket ex­ac­er­bates the al­ready dis­mal sit­u­a­tion.

Why would our youth feel like mis­fits in so­ci­ety or be plagued by low self-es­teem or feel­ings of re­bel­lion? Has it got some­thing with how our value-sys­tem has shifted over time?

More Bhutanese than ever are lit­er­ate, well-to-do, and even af­flu­ent. We pos­sess posh cars, build­ings, and five-star re­sorts. Mega hy­dropower dams are be­ing built one af­ter an­other, tourism sec­tor is go­ing great guns as they say, and peo­ple are be­com­ing more fash­ion­able and so­cial me­dia savvy by the day.

What then ails our youth? This younger gen­er­a­tion which is sup­posed to be a bea­con of hope for the coun­try?

One prime cause and an un­pleas­ant re­al­ity that stares starkly at us is the acute scarcity of ap­pro­pri­ate role mod­els in­clud­ing par­ents who in­spire. Yes, we do have a few he­roes and we can de­rive many life lessons from them.

But our youth seem to be more fas­ci­nated by glam­our idols than by value-driven per­son­al­i­ties. In this age, char­ac­ter seems to hold lit­tle value. Dolling up, dat­ing and hav­ing a good time seem to be the mantra that sways. Noth­ing wrong in all this if we do not miss the big­ger pic­ture along the way.

That is why it is so im­por­tant for fam­i­lies to im­part the right val­ues to chil­dren: if that means clean­ing your own room week­ends, clean­ing up af­ter you are done eat­ing, tak­ing out the trash, not lit­ter­ing on parks or sur­round­ings, spend­ing money mind­fully, not feed­ing your mind with cheap lit­er­a­ture, movies or songs and yes, not keep­ing in wrong com­pany (peer pres­sure is also in­flu­en­tial in shap­ing up youth).

With pop­u­lar cin­ema sen­sa­tion­al­iz­ing crime, vi­o­lence and sex, and so­cial me­dia prey­ing on ten­der sen­si­bil­i­ties most of­ten than not with junk con­tent, we should not be sur­prised that youth are be­ing led astray.

Show us a tee­to­taller es­pe­cially in Bhutanese me­dia, which claims high moral ground, or in the film in­dus­try, which is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity, and we can vouch spot­ting a uni­corn.

Things like this af­fect our youth. For lack of role mod­els in the coun­try, they may start look­ing out­side, and their pur­suit is again of­ten mis­di­rected.

An or­di­nary per­son can be­come ex­tra­or­di­nary if he pos­sesses a ster­ling char­ac­ter. Add to it tal­ent, hard work and maybe charm, and our youth will not be look­ing for role mod­els else­where.

Also, re­cently, we have seen a slew of youth move­ments grow­ing es­pe­cially in the con­tem­po­rary arts like dance, park­our and art plus not to for­get, bud­ding en­trepreneur­ship.

The im­por­tant thing is to sup­port these cre­ative and in­no­va­tive sides to our youth. Noth­ing feels so bad as be­ing given up on. The so­ci­ety, schools and au­thor­i­ties can play a ma­jor role in help­ing youth by pro­vid­ing them the right plat­forms.

Let us not give up. Fig­ures can be star­tlingly scary. But they can be coun­tered. Start by be­ing the per­son you want pos­ter­ity to be­come.

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