There are two main factors that have lead to the need for improving mental health issues in Cambodia today.
First, is the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge was a genocide in the late 1970s that ultimately killed four million Cambodians. The ruthless regime of the Khmer Rouge left many survivors with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from witnessing such horrific crimes against humanity.
Second, is the high rates of poverty that plague Cambodia. The mass destruction of Cambodia’s infrastructure during the Khmer Rouge left the country poverty stricken, losing decades of development in a just few years. As a result, living in poverty poses itself as a large risk factor for mental illnesses, causing many Cambodians without PTSD from the genocide to still be at a high risk of struggling with mental health.
Specifically targeting educated people and those unable to work, the Khmer Rouge left the country with only a few dozen medical professionals by the genocide’s end. Moreover, it has taken decades for Cambodia to develop the organizations necessary to combat such deeply-rooted mental health struggles. Here are four organizations improving mental health in Cambodia today.
4 Organizations Improving Mental Health in Cambodia
- Transcultural Psychological Organization (TPO Cambodia)
TPO Cambodia recognizes the gap between mental health services needed and the mental health services provided in Cambodia. Through recognizing this gap, TPO Cambodia has developed an extensive array of mental health services. For instance, services are aimed at community building, raising awareness and providing psychological treatment. By focusing on the cultural context of Cambodia, TPO Cambodia aims to develop culturally aware treatment options for patients. Some of the many services available at TPO Cambodia are:
- Offering the training of already-established community leaders to be key mental health resources for the community
- Trauma treatment
- Counseling and therapy
- Self-help groups for victims of sexual assault and of the Khmer Rouge
- Protection of children
- Cambodian National Program for Mental Health
Secondly, training mental health professionals are just the beginning for the Cambodian National Program for Mental Health. With its primary goal being to support the Cambodian Ministry of Health, this program continues to help increase the number of properly-trained mental health professionals in Cambodia. This is so foundational as Cambodia needs more trained mental health professionals to properly address the mental health needs of the country. In addition to training mental health professionals, the Cambodian National Program for Mental Health:
- Provides mental health services to 23 out of 24 Cambodian provinces
- Introduced computerized documentation for client’s files
- Supports the primary psychiatric facility in Phnom Penh
- Develops the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Centre
- Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH)
Also dedicated to supporting the mental health struggles of children and their families, CCAMH strives to help children in the community, at school and at their center. So, by providing counseling and awareness-building services at school and in the community, CCAMH’s primary resources are at their center. For example, some of the services available at the center are:
- Play therapy
- Behavior therapy
- Psychosocial Education
- Multi-Model Therapeutic Intervention
- Individual and family counseling
- Social Services of Cambodia (SSC)
Finally, the primary focus of SSC is to dismantle the negative stigmas associated with mental health professionals in Cambodia. For example, SSC aims to change the negative public opinions by spreading messages busting stigma-centric myths about mental health professionals to schools, government officials and the public. Additionally, SSC encourages future university students to get involved in social work and recognize the value of social work professionals.
Overall, with very little allocated to mental health services in Cambodia’s public health budget, government-run mental health programs are severely underfunded. Therefore, compiled with the severe stigma against psychiatric help in Cambodia, the discouraging of many health professionals to go into the mental health field leave Cambodia with a monetary and human resource deficit to properly manage nationwide mental health struggles. Fortunately, there are these four organizations improving mental health in Cambodia to help pave the way towards a solution.
– Amy Dickens