Seminar Examines Mental Health in Cambodia

More than 50 municipal and government officials, NGO officials and aid workers participated in the workshop on Mental Health Encouragement and Human Rights Thursday. The seminar called for the end of domestic violence and human rights abuses that are the result of the poor state of mental heath in Cambodia.

Phnom Penh Vice Governor Map Sarin told participants that almost 90 percent of Cambodians grapple with mental illness, and among them, women are more commonly affected by mental health issues. “A lack of access to reliable information has lead to an increase in domestic violence as a result of mental health,” he said.

Furthermore, the most prevalent cause of mental illness in Cambodia is the country’s recent history of conflict, added Under­secretary of State for Women’s Affairs San Arun. “Cambodia has seen warfare for more than 20 years and the Cambodian people are shocked. They remember this bad ordeal.”

The broad spectrum of mental problems is represented in Cambodia, said Dr Chy Rithy of the Trans-cultural Psychosocial Organization. Problems range from simple stress—which can lead to more serious problems—to anxiety, depression and psychosis, Chy Rithy said.

Sat Salim of the Program Against Domestic Violence cited a nationwide survey of 3,741 households conducted by the Ministry of Planning in 2000. Of the 2,403 women interviewed, 25 percent said that they were victims of phys­ical or emotional abuse at homes. “Physical or emotional battery against women or men can lead to an increase in mental health problems,” he said.

All kinds of human rights abuses are closely related to mental illnesses, said Pheng Horn, Chief of the Educational of Department of the human rights NGO Licadho.

A culture of impunity, political intimidation, domestic violence, assassinations and sexual abuse, are common human rights violations, he said. “A person who has been subject to sexual abuse or intimidation has felt some kind of stress and can be­come mental health patients,” said Pheng Horn.

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