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Bhutanese Refugees Are Killing Themselves at an Astonishing Rate
- Danielle Preiss - The Atlantic:
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.
Of course, the next question will be "WHY?" Of course, like most refugee groups, the Bhutanese struggle with poverty, depression, culture shock, and other issues. However, these are not unique circumstances for them. Why don't Somalis or Karen commit suicide as frequently? Personally, I have noticed that suicide is especially prominent in the cultural narrative of the Bhutanese. One has only to watch their films to see how frequently suicide is a theme. Moreover, those who commit suicide in Nepali language films are not usually seen as having done something wrong. Rather, they are tragic victims and even sometimes are viewed as somewhat courageous. Outside of films, if you manage to observe any of the dialogue between young Bhutanese people (especially when romance is involved), you will see suicidal themes there as well. A boy rejected by the girl he loves will very often threaten to kill himself. A wife scolded by her husband might do the same. The bottom line is that in the prevailing cultural narrative, suicide is an option.
The Atlantic article brushes up against a key insight:
"Burmese, Somali and Iraqi refugees (the other three groups that top the list for recent refugee arrivals) also entered the U.S. during the downturn. These groups may have been protected by what Shetty describes as different 'cultural perspectives' on suicide. Of these groups, most are Muslim [Burmese refugees are a mix of Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist], except the mainly Hindu Bhutanese. Though both Shetty and Subedi were careful to avoid saying suicide is accepted by Bhutanese culture or Hindu religion, Subedi explains it is tolerated more. 'For Bhutanese, suicide by hanging is a solution,' he says, explaining that for Somali refugees, Islamic prohibitions are effective deterrents. Hinduism is more ambiguous on the subject."
If you are one who cares for the Bhutanese refugee community in your city, please take a look at the linked article above and give it careful thought. Pray for the Bhutanese people to recognize the sacredness and preciousness of life. Pray that they will reject the idea that suicide is a valid response to life's problems. Grace and Truth must become incarnated in every Bhutanese-Nepali community for this trend to be reversed.