Awareness First, Actions Next

By Sophearith Dareth, Voices of Youth alumni 

Image 1.jpg©Untangle: A Mental Health Project

The undeniable truth of Cambodia’s situation in terms of mental health is that the level of mental health literacy is still very low. The role of the Cambodian government in mental health awareness and their priority in raising the awareness is still questionable.​​

In an article written by the Phnom Penh Post, the Director of the Ministry of Health’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse stated that the government still has a hard time managing people who suffer from depression because of the lack of awareness. Only 9.3% of Cambodian hospitals provide services for mental healthcare which makes it even more difficult.

Image 2.jpg©Untangle: A Mental Health Project

A report by Transcultural Psychological Organization (TPO) stated that patients who are mentally ill are still locked up or chained by their family members because they do not know how they can deal with the patients.

In another article written by the Phnom Penh Post, Dr Sotheara Chhim, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Executive Director of TPO Cambodia said “many people in rural areas still believe that mental illnesses are caused by sorceries which may be treated by mediums like traditional healers and monks who can communicate with supernatural sources in order to get rid of the evil spirit.”

Another shocking data is that there were only 41 registered psychiatrists in Cambodia by 2015. The supplied services of mental healthcare is surely less than the demand.

This proves that Cambodia still has a long way to go. Then where do we start?

From my perspective, awareness is where we need to start right now as it is becoming more crucial than ever. One significant problem that we need to address is that people still do not regard mental health as part of a human well-being.

Normally, when we mention physical health people often think about physical fitness, a healthy diet, or regular exercises. However, when mental health comes up, what people immediately think about could be depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses.

People, especially teenagers tend to diagnose their own mental illnesses without meeting with professionals. However, people are condemning those who claim to have depression with great negativity that causes even worse impacts and stigma and this could become a factor that pull people with depression back from opening up and seeking help.

These are part of the reasons why I have become a mental health advocate. This is why I am part of a team with 4 other young Cambodians who push for mental health awareness and we have created a project called “Untangle: A Mental Health Project”. This project is a legacy of “Project Philippines 2018: Mental Health Awareness” organized by SEALNet (Southeast Asian Service Leadership Network). We want to empower Cambodian youths to advocate for mental health awareness and increase the level of mental health literacy of the public.

With the belief that awareness should come first, we are conducting workshops on the 10th of December, 2018 to raise mental health awareness among the public. The workshops will be conducted in two shifts, morning (9AM-12PM) and afternoon (2PM-5PM). There will be mental health professionals who will come to provide their insights and knowledge on mental health and many fun activities organized by Cambodian youths.

You can register to join our workshops here. Stay updated by following our Facebook page here.

Join us and be a part of a change!


Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.




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