One in five young Cambodians thought about committing suicide in the past 12 months, mostly due to poverty or problems with parents or caregivers, according to an end of year Education Ministry report released Friday.
Twenty percent of young Cambodians felt worried, hopeless and reluctant to work, leaving them incapacitated for more than a week in the past year, according to the report, Cambodia National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which was supported by the UN Children’s Fund and UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The report found that 27 percent of girls and 11 percent of boys have thought about suicide.
A quarter of the 9,388 respondents in 24 provinces said domestic violence had occurred in their families in the previous 30 days.
Eight percent surveyed said they had carried a knife, stick, club or other weapon in the previous 30 days. Two-and one-half percent had been threatened with a weapon over the last year.
“Fighting is a big problem, especially among young people out of school,” the report said.
A third of respondents said their families had a shortage of money for rice in the previous year, and 85 percent of such families survived on two meals a day, the report found. Only 16 percent of families had running water and 50 percent had no toilet.
Of 148 sexually active young people interviewed for the survey, 23 said they had forced someone else to have sex. A third of sexually active youths never wear condoms and 24 percent are not aware of sexually-transmitted infections, the report found.
In a country where more than half the population is under 20, “young people represent not only the future of our country but also its present reality,” Im Sethy, Education Ministry secretary of state wrote in the report. “These results should help us better understand the reality of being a young person in Cambodia today.”
Not all the news was bad, however. One in three respondents said they exercised.
Chea Vannath of the Center for Social Development attributed the social problems and depression to poverty, unemployment, drugs and low standards of living.
“Their parents are busy finding money to support their families, and the parents themselves are like the children of a lost generation,” due to their suffering under the Khmer Rouge, she said.