Alcoholism: Mongolia’s silent epidemic
- What we see in the street is just the tip of the iceberg -
Alcoholism: Is ‘self-development’ the best approach?
To learn more about the progress of current anti-alcohol movements in Mongolia, The UB Post spoke with J.Tsogtsugar, president of the Mongolia Association for Men’s Development and the unofficial spokesperson of the movements against alcoholism.
J.Tsogtsugar, whose work in the field has been well-known for more than a decade, confided that his approach to the issue has been labeled controversial, as he focuses more on “self-development” rather than alcohol addiction itself.
“We work with the brain and the mind. We don’t work with alcohol,” said J.Tsogtsugar. “By instilling specific knowledge and developing people from within, we believe we can eradicate the alcohol epidemic. We don’t use anti-alcohol pills and other remedies. We inspire people to love and hope. We give them a mental energy, a desire to protect their children and love their nation. Changing someone’s mind is not easy, and there is no pill that can do it. We want to change the Mongolian way of thinking about alcohol, this is our main campaign.”
J.Tsogtsugar added, “This is a relatively new method of fighting alcoholism because previously, people resorted to all sorts of methods such as pills, tongue piercing and shamans and so forth.”
During our interview at his office, he received numerous calls from people seeking his expertise on alcohol treatment.
Yet some requests were more unreasonable than others. For instance, an older man asked him to treat a relative of his who is not willing to apply for treatment himself. J.Tsogtsugar replied, “We cannot go to his home and forcefully treat him. At least convince him to come here and we will make him realize that he is sick and needs to change his habits.”
Alcohol addiction in Mongolian society: Stereotypes abound
“Addicts are viewed as somebody who has no job, no home and someone who spends his days drinking with similar people in dark alleys and street corners. But these are only some of the severe cases that have a one in 100 chance of recovering,” said J.Tsogtsugar. “There are also what we call, the ‘white collar’ addicts. These are those who have regular jobs in the private sector, or even have higher positions – even in the parliament – but drink heavily. They are regular, upstanding members of society during the day, but are alcohol addicts by night. They put on their white shirt and tie in the morning to look smart on the outside, but on the inside, they are sick.”
Some of the projects that J.Tsogtsugar and his organization do are totally unconventional and new. For instance, they asked the President of Mongolia, Ts.Elbegdorj, to support the campaign by toasting with a cup of milk rather than champagne on New Year’s Eve, and they have established the first alcohol-free night club with the help of the Ministry of Health and the Prime Minister.
“Before we established the club, some health experts kept asking me one thing, ‘From where among the world’s countries can you find a disco or club that doesn’t sell alcoholic products?’ I told them, why must we always learn from foreigners, why can’t the world learn some things from us instead?” he said.
J.Tsogtsugar also noted that people’s criteria for success are off-target, especially when concerning anti-alcohol movements.
“The second thing they asked me was how will the club profit? Wealthy Mongolians view profit as one thing: money. But our club sees profit differently. Isn’t it profitable when young people refuse alcohol? If a healthy Mongolian man is developed, thousands of mothers will be happy, thousands and thousands of families and children will live better. When people are healthy and working productively, isn’t this profit? Since this is how we see profit, we believe that the club is profitable. Maybe we can’t pay our rent on time but if we lead a couple of hundred young people into a lifestyle without alcohol, this is profit for us.”
Surveys suggest Mongolian men are far more likely to suffer from alcohol addiction. In this, J.Tsogtsugar has his own theory. “For the past 30 or so years, our government has been focused on women’s and children’s development. But nobody talks about developing a healthy Mongolian man. When faced with social difficulties, men have few places they can go to for consultation. The Ministry of Population Development has a whole department devoted to women but none for men,” he said.
In conclusion, J.Tsogtsugar said the best way to eradicate alcoholism is through what he calls “mental energy,” a development of the mind.
“There are many reasons people become addicts. Conflict, fear, stress, frustration, difficult relations and such are factors to this issue. A lot people have only a basic understanding of the impact of alcohol on their life. There are some who don’t think that my approach is right, but there are many who understand. In my recent visit to the provinces, a crowd sat and listened to me talk about mental energy for three hours and nobody left the room… The minds of the nation are hungry, but there is no one to feed them.”
Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=8357