TPO CambodiaThe Khmer Rouge was a genocide in Cambodia that resulted from a civil war, leaving 4 million dead and millions more traumatized. The destruction of Cambodia’s infrastructure during the Khmer Rouge has greatly contributed to poverty levels in the country and the struggle to rebuild the country. Since the Khmer Rouge specifically targeted doctors and educated people (leaving the country devoid of healthcare professionals), it took decades for mental health treatment to be available. Thankfully, organizations like the Transcultural Psychological Organization (TPO Cambodia) have emerged to help combat the negative mental health impacts of the Khmer Rouge and poverty. Here are 4 ways TPO Cambodia provides mental health aid.

4 Ways TPO Cambodia Provides Mental Health Aid

  1. Raising Awareness of Mental Health Among Locals: TPO Cambodia builds upon already established relationships to develop new mental health leaders in communities. It does this by training already established leaders in Cambodian communities in the basics of psychosocial education and how to refer those in need. This strategy is respectful of Cambodian social structures while, at the same time, raises awareness of mental health. TPO Cambodia conducts various mental health awareness programs in schools, pagodas and on the radio. These programs have been proven to increase understanding of psychosocial issues in families and leave people empowered to know how to take action to aid their mental health.Raising awareness of the importance of mental health also helps prevent mental health issues by increasing mental wellness practices. One story highlighted a man who was traumatized when attacked by robbers. The event left the man incredibly violent and, eventually, his family had to chain him up in fear of their own lives. Once the family learned of TPO Cambodia, they were able to provide him the treatment he needed, allowing him to heal and be free from chains.
  2. Building Communities: One positive impact TPO Cambodia sees from increased mental health awareness has been stronger communities. These two aspects build upon one another, the larger community raises more awareness and raised awareness strengthens the community. Trained individuals facilitate self-help groups, providing a community space for people to problem solve on shared struggles, share personal experiences and feel more socially connected. Some community programs currently available through TPO Cambodia are healing for victims of the Khmer Rouge, mental health for sexual assault victims, promoting gender equality and working for the protection of children.
  3. Providing Psychological Treatment Services: TPO Cambodia is staffed with experienced clinical professionals that offer a variety of mental health services for psychosocial, psychological and psychiatric conditions. Services available are decided based on an individual’s needs. Some of the services available at TPO Cambodia are trauma treatment, psychiatric assessment and treatment and counseling and therapy. It also provides help for issues such as insomnia, alcoholism and depression.
  4. Research Projects: All research projects TPO Cambodia conducts specifically focus on the cultural context of Cambodia. Through research projects, TPO Cambodia has developed a culturally aware version of “Testimonial Therapy” for traumatized victims of the Khmer Rouge. This therapy aids in helping victims find closure and to associate traumas with a more positive state of mind.  The various research projects TPO Cambodia is involved in aims to gain a better understanding of how traumatic events have impacted its people as well as understand better how this information can improve TPO Cambodia’s current therapeutic practices.

With a majority of mental health issues worldwide residing in impoverished communities, mental health issues need to be actively considered in the eradication of poverty. Living in poverty presents itself as a huge risk factor for many mental health struggles. TPO Cambodia’s method of incorporating the Cambodian cultural context into every part of their work has shown to positively impact communities while maintaining a crucial understanding and respect of cultural norms. These 4 ways TPO Cambodia provides mental health aid show how organizations can work to end the vicious cycle of poverty and mental health in their own communities.

Amy Dickens

Photo: Flickr