As February rolls in, I’m wondering how many of us who made New Years resolutions      have forgotten them already. Habits get the better of us, and so even though resolutions and commitments are made, many of us will find little change in ourselves by the end of the year. What we need is a conscientious effort to break out of undesirable habits and the only way, it has been advised, is by “being in the moment.” We have a wonderful piece on this by Lama Shenphen, someone who is quietly admired by many in Thimphu for living the life that we would like to emulate. I have still not met Lama Shenphen, but my visits and chats with addicts and patients at the psychiatric ward in Thimphu have revealed the enormous impact he has had on some of their lives. They have nothing but praise for him. He has made a difference.

Thimphu can be a tough place for adolescents and young people. Alcoholism and substance abuse are now tired and sorry subjects that have been re-hashed by the Bhutanese media who has tried to bring about some change in this social issue. But little has improved. The danger of saying too much on this subject is that it can result in bans or mishandling of the problem by the government, which could only exacerbate it. We have seen this happen with cigarettes. A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet with an official from the Army Welfare Project (AWP) in Gelephu. I told him that as a social activist I had nothing personal against AWP, but that as one of the largest income grossing companies in Bhutan, AWP could and should take some responsibility in Bhutan’s problem with alcoholism by using some of its revenue in educating and even building rehabilitation centers. It is an individual choice we make – to drink, to eat, to chew whatever – but if these substances are made widely available, especially to a society that is socially linked with alcohol, then it is hard to blame the people alone. It is, therefore, welcome news that AWP is now initiating programs to educate consumers on the dangers of alcohol consumption. The next step for them is to further engage by hiring experts to go around the schools to counsel school children. More importantly, they should contribute money to rehabilitation centers or even set up one in each district. If anything, the AWP owes that to Bhutanese society.

February is also the month when children go back to school. This is a great time for parents to sit down with their children and talk to them about many issues. Children should know that should they confront a social situation or an emotional problem, they have someone to turn to for guidance. School is fun, but it can also be stressful on a young mind. So take time to listen to your children’s concerns before they head off to another academic year, it will help you understand some of their concerns and anxieties; things you never even think about because they haven’t told you. Wishing parents, teachers and students a great academic year. Make it a meaningful one.

Last, but not least, we at The Raven would like to wish His Majesty the King of
Bhutan a very Happy Birthday as he turns 33 on February 21.

Sonam Ongmo

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