Community Dialogue for Mental Health Awareness

Participants during the conference. Photo: Foundation For Conscious Activism

By: Robin Gurung/ Bay Area California


 “Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims.” -Judith Herman, M.D.

Participants during the conference.
Photo: Foundation For Conscious Activism

In order to increase mental health awareness and establish a strong support system for those who are in need of mental health support in the Bhutanese community in exile, Foundation for Conscious Activism, a non-profit organization co-founded by a group of Bhutanese refugee youths in Bay Area California, has initiated a program called “Community Dialogue for Mental Health Awareness.” Robin Gurung, one of the co-founders of the organization, and Chhori Maharjan, Psy.D candidate at California Institute of Integral Studies facilitated the dialogue. For more info

On June 24th, 2017, the first community dialogue through a video-conference was conducted where different Bhutanese community leaders, mental health experts, and families of suicide victims participated. Among them was Ram Acharya who lost his eldest son Krishna Acharya, 21, in a suicide incident in July 2016. In the conference, Mr. Acharya shared the story of his son’s death, the causes and some preventive measures that he took to save him although he expressed it was in vain. He also shared his vision moving forward to save lives of those children, like Krishna, who are fighting against mental illnesses. To listen Ram Acharya Click here .

Participants during community discussion at Bay Area, California.
Photo: Foundation For Conscious Activism

In the second part of the conversation, Kismat Mishra shared his story of a tragic accident when a moving train hit his car. He lost three of his friends. He is the only survivor of the crash. Mishra talks about how he is struggling with his mental, emotional, and physical health and shares his goals and aspirations to become a football coach. Mishra talks here .

On July 8, 2017, Part 2 of the “Community Dialogue for Mental Health Awareness” was organized where the participants were from Australia representing Bhutanese Martyrs Memorial and Torture Survivors Society (BHUMMATTS), Dr. Chhabi Timsina, the only Licensed Psychiatrist from the Bhutanese community in the U.S., and few community leaders from different parts of the country. The theme of the discussion was “Trauma and Recovery.” We wanted to understand what trauma is, how it affects our lives, and what we can do to heal. The dialogue began with the story of torture survivor Birkha Gurung, who shared his experiences of being imprisoned and tortured in Bhutan during the ethnic cleansing campaign by Royal Government of Bhutan. Gurung talks about the mental, emotional, and physical impact of the pain in his everyday life and how a practice of yoga and meditation has helped him in the recovery process. His story is recently published at BHUMMATSS’ Click here.  A website launched by family members of Martyrs and torture survivors in South Australia. In this discussion, one of the founding members and a well-known community leader, Jogen Gozmere, and the General Secretary of the organization Mohan Gautam explained the goals of establishing the BHUMMATSS.

Gazmere shared his experience of being in solitary confinement for 27 months in Bhutan and what he did to heal the wounds after he was released. Gazmere speaks here

In the other part of the discussion, Dr. Chhabi Timisina shares his journey of working as a medical doctor in different prisons in Bhutan during the political crisis in the 80s and the 90s and why he chose to be a psychiatrist later in his life. Dr. Timsina gives a closer look at the mental health situation of the Bhutanese community in exile and shares his thoughts on the healing aspect of it. What  Dr. Chhabi Timsina has said, Watch here

After listening to the mental health experts like Dr. Chhabi Timsina and Chhori Maharjan, community leaders and family members of suicide victims, it is clear that the solution to the mental health crisis in the Bhutanese community in exile should come from different levels. Dr. Timsina Clarifies, “There are things that we can do at our homes, in our communities, and in treatment centers. Therefore, its solution can’t be explained in one or two words.” Watch the full video recordings of the Community Dialogue for Mental Health Awareness.

To address this community issue, Foundation for Conscious Activism  invites folks from different levels, different backgrounds, with different expertise, to join this movement for mental health awareness in the Bhutanese community in exile.

To learn more about this project, please contact us at: [email protected]

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