If conditions such as depression, stress, or insomnia are not given close attention, they can ultimately become life-threatening. To address these important issues, Youth Mental Health Day was conceived to give youth advice and practical strategies to cope with these problems.
Last week, the Royal University of Phnom Penh organized Youth Mental Health Day, which brought together major stakeholders in the field of mental health, such as NGOs and related institutions, in order to raise awareness of mental health issues in Cambodia, particularly those affecting young people.
During the event there were many interactive and varied sessions in which audiences were able to participate enthusiastically and learn more about psychology and strategies for healing mental illnesses.
Counseling Project Manager of Hagar Cambodia, Seng Mang, advised that mental illness can manifest itself in various ways. “[People] feeling hopeless in their life, having negative thoughts about themselves or worrying [excessively] about their future are all examples of mental illness, which could lead to people committing suicide or becoming psychotic.”
“For treatment, some Cambodian people are still attached to their cultural beliefs such as water blessings from monks (a traditional Cambodian practice to bring good luck and protection), praying and so on.”
“However, I would suggest that those who have serious symptoms of mental illness seek medical treatment or consultation with specialists as soon as possible,” he advised.
So how does the average Cambodian youth cope with their stress or depression?
“Whenever I get depressed, I always do meditation alone by breathing in and out for long periods of time, without noise distractions. Also, I do some readings on psychology. It helps me a lot,” said Leang Sokunthea, a Youth Mental Health Day participant.
At just 19 years old, Seang Sochan admitted that she has experienced mental illness. She believes it was related to her studies and financial difficulties. “Sometimes, I became stressed from family circumstances, like when my parents got sick. However, self encouragement and talking to friends is the best therapy for me.”
To address the growing issue of mental health problems among youth, the Child Helpline Cambodia (CHC) facility was created to help young people who just need someone to listen or to discuss their problems with, via 24/7 telephone counseling.
“Most young callers are having problems with their love relationships. Therefore, we listen and give support to them by any means. Everyone can access our services free of charge by calling to [the helpline on] 1280,” said Sochea, a counselor at CHC.
Apart from telephone counseling, practicing yoga is recommended as another great way to release stress and prevent mental illness. Ann Sorita, who has taught yoga for seven years, advised that yoga can give peace of mind and enable improved concentration on studies or work.
Mental illness can strike anyone at any age, however it is critical to seek professional help with a minimum of delay so effective treatments can be arranged to start the recovery process.
Students share their stories about how to deal with mental illness during a group discussion.