Can we stop suicide?


Especially when you are at distant, I would bid that hardly you believe it when you hear the news related to death of your beloved family member. Perhaps this doubt is likely to last for several hours too at least until you get closure to clues about the truth. It might be because this is an obvious human nature. Not to an exception, I stranded for several hours in confusions when I first heard the news (soon swung into public concern inside refugee camps) that explored the death of my beloved sister Menuka Poudel, 20, in Arizona. The later-on-proven-fact that she committed suicide was yet another mind blowing sock to me for there existed no any valid reasons for her to opt for such a ‘means’ to end up worthy life.

My sister Menuka committed suicide in less than a couple of months since she had arrived Arizona with parents and youngest sister through resettlement program. When I heard the news for the first time, it was told that both my parents including the youngest sister were in unconscious state due to the tragic incident. Some of them were rushed to hospital too; thanks to better medication system here in the USA.

The reason, now I guess, might be because I was still back in camps. I was and am still a responsible son, brother, to my family members for they completely depend on me. My other two sisters (both younger to me) were still in camps at a time when the tragedy took an otherwise turn in my new home in Arizona. Besides the worry about the condition of my parents and little sister in Arizona, I equally had the challenge to convince two other sisters who were still in camps. Nevertheless, patience has had to serve as ‘inspirational tool’ to me throughout this tragic period; thanks to all relatives, neighbors and community folks back in camps who showed up to share my grief by giving me further courage, strength to overcome this hard-hit challenge.

On the other side, I was more concerned about the fact that if my meeting with parents would be delayed further, there might occur another unexpected awful incident. I was also pretty much worried about whether it would be possible to carry out the ritual rites in accordance with the Hindu culture, whether I would be able to meet my family during the time of ritual rites as I was yet to receive my departure date. I am now proud that finally I was able to join my family in Arizona in a few days time (though I could not pay my last tribute to my late sister Menuka). Making ‘friend in need is friend in deed’ hit the reality; many of my friends, neighbors helped me to share my story with the concerned authorities for expediting my departure from Nepal. He does not want his name to be publicly mentioned here, in his own words it’s sensitive, but one of the top editors of Bhutan News Service has a significant hand in convincing the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to expedite my flight. I hardly find appropriate words to appreciate his timely help but I continue to hope he will show up to help as many people (like me) as possible in becoming the ‘voice of the voiceless’ in future too.

When I arrived here in Arizona on December 9, I found the situation otherwise than what I had expected while I was in camp. I could see many friends and relatives from Bhutanese community showing up to extend their helping hands; even at night time there used to be more than twenty individuals gathered in my home, a situation exactly similar to what it used to be back in Bhutan or in camps. I will be unfair if I miss to take this opportunity to thank all of those who helped me and my family to get out of such throbbing circumstances.

The IOM’s help in expediting my case is very appreciative; thanks to those involved in arranging my early flights. Chandra Bhattarai, who played crucial role in taking my voice upto the office of the IOM, deserves my sincere words of gratitude. I had never realized the importance and power of media until my late sister Menuka’s story was highlighted by Bhutan News Service, which had made community folks to wake up to lend their helping hands; thanks to the BNS family. I am also equally thankful to Bhutanese community folks here in Arizona for their continuous and praiseworthy support during sorrowful time. The support of my family’s resettlement agency was learnt to be prompt, timely and appreciative, thus, I cannot stay away without offering them a garland of thanks. I also like to appreciate the help (be it of any nature) rendered by community folks from ‘out of State’.

Interestingly, I still remember one incident back in refugee camp that developed as a result of the news of my sister’s suicide. One of my neighbors, who was ready to ‘sign application declaring his willingness to get resettled,’ pulled back his stance and never showed on the day of his appointment in the UNHCR office. I feel he is still not ready for doing it. I do not want to hesitate here to let the community folks know through this write-up that ‘resettlement alone might not be the reason for her to commit suicide.’ Yet, frustration after resettlement might have contributed a bit on her courage to commit suicide. As you all wonder the exact reasons for her to commit suicide, I can just join you for I am much unknown about it too.

At a time when third country resettlement was gaining a good momentum, both rumors and factual news about suicide cases, in particular in the USA, time and again indulged refugee camps in Nepal. Most of such rumors have largely contributed to withdrawal of ‘declaration of interests for resettlement’ by many refugees. For those Bhutanese parents, who wish not to opt for resettlement despite their young children’s keen wish to be resettled, this serves as an immediate exceptional ‘lame excuse’. Appropriate measures and needy efforts to address this emerging problem on time are, however, thinly heard, if not at all. As far the role of settlement agencies is concerned, I would say the orientation given by IOM should include lessons that morally and psychologically boost resettling folks. In addition to this, resettling agency should also conduct workshops and trainings that help in building positive thinking and psychological strength among the resettled folks.

A single person, community or concerned authority, let alone, cannot be blamed; yet we are part of it when viewed from moral sense. Since those committing suicide are Bhutanese, it is the responsibility of all of us to kick-start fresh talks, debates on ‘how to “try” to stop/discourage’ such incidents in the future course of time. I am already convinced to the fact that stopping it permanently might be challenging and almost impossible but we can bring a change and make a big positive difference if we start such campaign quite dedicatedly. Then are you ready to be a part of it? Can we stop suicide? Let’s keep this debate going and obviously we might be able to explore some possibilities.

To conclude, I like to pray and wish that the soul of my beloved sister late Menuka including those community members who have committed suicide after their resettlement rest in peace in heaven. Let god give rest of us a powerful strength to overcome this crucial transitional phase after resettlement.

Editor’s note:
Khem Khadka has partially helped the writer to prepare this open letter.


  1. Hari lal Poudel ji,

    Through this informative writing you proved to be a man of integrity. Though late to save your sister, Bhutanese folks in Arizona should be fortunate to get a man like you in the community. There could be many ways to tackle the problem, but the most important roles lies with the community and their activities. I feel, you will be able to eliminate further suicides in your area. Your article is a strong beginning.


  2. Dear Hari,
    Its really the most tragic and painful incident which is really impossible to imagine also. God may know the fact about its symptom. Anyway we pray for her soul to rest in peace in heaven. Its all a matter of self control and capacity to think positive about ones’ life. There are lots of ways and means to control anything in this age including depression, tensions,frustrations or any kind of mental or physical disturbances or disabilities. Lets not leave the incident as bygones are bygones but we need deep research about the fact and further stop such filthy and inhuman acts. Everyone of us are on your side in this tragic situation. Hold patience, pray to God, be positive and be courageous. Billions are on earth and none is without pain and satisfaction…life is a challenge, so we need to fight it!

  3. Dear Mr. Hari Lal Poudel:

    I am not a Bhutanese, but I still understand your pain of losing your sister. We all humans are God’s children, and whenever one of us takes his/her own life, all other humans feel sad. Normally, family members of those who kill themselves know the exact reasons behind the tragedy. But sometimes, even immediate family members also are kept in dark, and they do not know the reason why their loved-one took his/her own life. Anyway, knowing reasons is not that important at this point since nothing can bring your sister back to life now.

    I admire you for taking very good care of your family, and I hope no Bhutanese refugee ever has to kill himself ever again.

    I was surprised to read your statement that someone in refugee camp withdrew his application and has changed his mind about coming to America. I think no one should withdraw his/her application for migration to America because America is not that kind of horrible place to live in as some people think.

    A Pakistani man whom I know very well decided to return to his native country after living here for about 20 years. He was an American citizen, had a good paying job, house, cars and everything he dreamed all of his life. He also had daughters and sons who never disobeyed him. He just did not like American culture and society. He never agreed with American life style, and that is why he decided to go back to his native country. One day he left America permanently. He was sure he would never return to America ever again. Guess what? He returned to America with all of his family just about six months later. He told his friends that soon after he landed at John F. Kennedy airport, New York, he bent down and kissed the ground, and shouted “I LOVE AMERICA”. He told his friends how badly his own Pakistani friends and even his own relatives treated him. He was full of anger and told others that most of Pakistanis were “Dhokey Baaz, Chor, Dakoo, Jhootey and Janwar” (Deceitful, thieves, liars and animals). Poor guy lost all of his money to those Pakistani brothers who he trusted. Not only that many of young and old men tried to convince his young daughters for sexual intercourse with them, under the impression that girls who live in America are bad girls. Every time his daughters had to go outside, jobless young men who always hung around, stared at them at their breasts and private areas with different angles.

    Now, he is living a very happy life here in America because his daughters are safe, and no man stares at them with lustful eyes all the times.

    I am not trying to prove that most Pakistanis are bad people, but truth of the matter is that after living here in America for a long period, our mentality and ways of thinking change, and we just cannot fit in the same culture we grew up in.

    Another Pakistani man, who was a successful Doctor here in America, went back to his native country for the same reason. Thieves broke into his home two times and stole his money and valuables at gunpoint. In third incident of break-in, thieves shot him to death, even he told them to take all of his money. Thieves just did not want to leave him alive fearing he would be able to identify them if they ever got caught later.

    I have so many of former Bhutanese refugees friends who always tell me they hate America and hate American lifestyle and they will go back to Nepal or Bhutan soon after getting their American citizenships. I just smile and tell them they would love America so much that they would never even want to think about leaving America.

    Different culture, different religion and different lifestyle do leave many of us in a state of shock, but leaving America or killing ourselves will not help. We all need to be strong, and try to retain our culture and religion.

    I wish you would find America, a place where you and all of your family members will be living a very happy life, despite the fact; you lost your sister here in America.

    By the way, the day your sister killed herself, I did post a message of condolences for her family here on Bhutan News Service.

    Please contact me if I can help you in any way. Just contact any of former Bhutanese refugee living here in Massachusetts and ask for me, and chances are you will be able to contact me, because I am a very well-know person to most of Bhutanese people living in Massachusetts.

    God Bless America.

    Mr. Shahid M. Pasha, Massachusetts, USA.

  4. Suicide: Eradicate Mental Health Problem in the Bhutanese Community.

    Unspoken fear has set in the Bhutanese community due to the series of suicide cases in the resettled Bhutanese population mostly around the United States. It is devastating news for all of us. It is time to take evasive actions to take care of the Mental Health of our people being resettled. It is the time for the community leaders to step in and bring early intervention programs to the community.

    Mental Health
    Initial struggles to adapt change and progress in America have been a challenge to all immigrants but more so to the Bhutanese people. It is understandable that many carry PTSD, Depression and anxiety which were found to aggravate with ground realities and the hardships of resettlement faced with barriers such as language, culture, system in the overwhelming new circumstances. Despite such conditions, people tend to keep the psychological/emotional stress to themselves due to social/cultural taboo. In the long run, this could manifest into more severe consequences such as the suicide, domestic violence, alcohol abuse and other crimes. We want to avoid such unfortunate things from happening again. Early intervention is the key to improve the mental health of the community.
    I want to share with you what BASCO as a community organization is planning to do here in California. We will be taking a more holistic approach in the long term but starting with some basic activities as a pilot project for the short term. I am sending gist of Basso’s project proposal (innovative project) part of which is being submitted for a small funding possibility. My hope is that it will help our people in other states/countries to do similar or better projects to eradicate this saddening and threatening social problem. Meanwhile, let us make B.O.R.E (Bhutanese Organization Reciprocal Exchange) an understanding among ourselves to share unique projects that can benefit our people, no matter where they are. So, please do BORE for more.

    Activities (geared towards Holistic Approach)
    Qirten vajan (chanting program)
    To start with, it is a good idea to organize Qirten Vajan on weekly basis where people gather, chant hymns, relax, and talk of new experiences, hopes and dreams. It will also be a rendezvous to share joys and sorrow prompting them to some extent to open up to personal problems related to various levels of health issues. It will make a positive impact in the mental health of the community as they start anew and move towards new perspectives of life in America.
    In order to make the Chanting program more successful with holistic approach, we will be adding a piece of Oral History, Cross Cultural Counseling and Health through Sport, Music, Dance and Physical therapy in due course of time depending on the funding capabilities.

    Cross Cultural Counseling
    Bhutanese refugees endured almost 20 years in the deplorable circumstances in the refugee camps in Nepal which were inflicted with violence, numerous divisions and amateur politics of various kinds that added mental stress to the community as a whole. They are saddened that they were evicted from the country, and then after 20 years resettle dispersed in many countries. But they had high expectations that coming in the foreign land in small batches; they will be reunited once again like in Bhutan, tolerant to each other to live in peace and harmony. However, when these expectations were not met, they are disheartened and stressed up. It is sad for them to see their community degenerate, especially their children and youth forgetting their land, tradition and culture with generational gap ever widening. It has certainly affected the mental health of the refugees’ community and must have contributed towards domestic violence, depression, suicides, alcohol abuse etc.

    As an early intervention, we must incorporate cross cultural counseling, whereby community leaders and successful immigrants from other communities come and tell their success stories and give message of Hope and Optimism to our community reflecting positive aspects of life in America and the immense opportunities that the future generation will have.

    Oral History
    Most of the older generation of our people hardly knows how to read and write but they have wealth of historical knowledge through their life experiences. Their untold story must be shared with the youths/children who in turn will tell their part of the story and what they expect for the future. It is expected that this will lead towards reducing generational gap that currently exists between the elders and the youth/children.

    Health through Sports
    Will introduce ethnic games like Kabadi, Archery etc… and encourage the community to participate creating physical and mental exercises in the enjoyment of the sport.

    Music, dance and Physical theraphy:
    In some cases, the art of Yoga, relevant music, dance, massage therapy will be fruitful to improve the mental health of the community. A lot of the activities depend upon funding but Some of the activities can be started right away with our own community initiatives. If the community leaders bring these issues and activities in the form of project proposals to the agencies, state dept/federal government, chances are that we will succeed more than we can fail; and when we succeed, we will create an environment of Soft Landing for the community in the hard realities.

    Dick Chhetri

  5. Hari ji,
    You have really understood the meaning of human lives.your words are encouraging and carry some weight and meaning.Your request to one and all to do something to control the tragic end of precious humman lives due to such suicides deserve everybody’s praise.Let the bygone be bygobe but still we can do a lot if we work wholeheartedly.
    Raghu Osti

  6. Hari jee,
    Bravo!Iam really proud of you as, I noticed your vigor that compensated your grief so early and enabled you to compose this write up for a mass consciousness.
    As in the way you have explained,there were several suicidal cases before in our Bhutanese communities back in the camps as well as in the United States but none of the siblings of those deceased had come up with such an explaination regarding suicide and its preventive measures earlier. Exactly,we must try to stop such kinds of horrible incidents and particularly Suicidal case from our communities. For the same,public awareness should be promoted from every possible angle,for instance,people of all age-groups should be oriented properly about both opportunities as well as challenges after resettlement and responsible leaders in resettled states should sufficiently assure the availability of volunteers(in other words better friends and neighbours)for supporting every new arrivals. Nevertheless,Let us not expect the unexpected further more.
    Gurung Hem Kumar.