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Mental stress a worrying trend among Cambodian youths

Va Sonyka / Khmer Times Share:
KT/Siv CHanna

IT is an alarmingly statistic — that reportedly close to 2,000 young Cambodians ‘committed suicide’ in 2017 alone, according to Taing Sopheap, the Monitoring & Evaluation and Research Coordinator of Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Cambodia.

While the world at large is focused on modern technology, new innovations and the advent of an AI (Artificial Intelligence) future, the mental health issue of humanity remains an intense subject to pay rapt attention to.

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that suicide is a second leading reason for the demise of young people aged from 15 to 29 years old. The number of suicides also doubled up in just two years.

Ms Sopheap cited data from WHO in 2015, with 749 young suicides. The number rose to 1,857 deaths in 2017 — which is a big cause for concern to pay attention to mental health among Cambodian youth.

Ms Sopheap said: “TPO provides mental health care service to people at every age but not children. But just recently, we noticed that the number of young people committing suicide is increasing which makes it a major concern for us.”

According to a survey in 2019, conducted by a Psychology lecturer of the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Kao Sovandara, whose survey of 200 university students found out that more than 50 percent of them were diagnosed with symptoms of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Compared to a survey conducted in 2015, an extract from the thesis by Sovandara’s senior students showed that 63.2% of 247 students suffer from depression and 54.7 percent, anxiety.

True story of a suicidal mind

Song Seakleng is currently in the senior year, a major in the Department of Media and Communication (DMC) of Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).

The experience of dwelling in a mentality of despair for Seakleng began in his freshman year of college during the phase of transition from freshman to sophomore. Seakleng felt overwhelmed as everything went downhill from financial issues to the academic burden.

“Back then, I was in transition from freshman to sophomore year. Everything was overwhelming to me and I myself wasn’t able to handle or deal with anything. So slowly it was leading me to depression. There were so many factors in my case. For instance, I had been through a financial crisis, schooling pressure, pear pressure, and even a failed relationship,” Seakleng confessed.

On the verge of a mental breakdown, Seakleng began to lose direction in life and even a good performance in his first job as a part time employee.

“I was trapped in depression and it made me feel devastated. I couldn’t deal with it and I let it take control of my feelings, so finally, it broke down my mental state,” said Seakleng.

Even though depression almost overtook Seakleng’s life as he even wanted to end his life back then. His last instinct of seeking ‘HELP’, a helping hand from his friends, gave him a ray of hope and his life back intact again.

He outlined that it was in his sophomore year that he decided to seek out his friends for help. Talking out about the problem and his insecurities helped make him see he was important and loved deeply by people around him.

How you can help people with mental problems

In general, those who are not medically qualified in mental health problems may find it difficult to spot the difference between normal and mental people. However, Mr Sovandara said you can track mental symptoms through daily activities.

“Those who are not feeling normal will lost their interest in doing work, entertainment and communication with surrounding people. And they only want to hide alone in a room or don’t want to participate in social activities,” explained Mr Sovandara.

There are several options you can choose to help yourself or someone facing mental problems, advised by Psychologist Sovandara and TPO coordinator Sopheap.

1. Try self-help

First, help push them to accept that there is indeed a mental problem and you must find a solution by yourself.

Example 1: If you lose interest in social activities, you must restart social activities again.

Example 2: Do regular exercise to upkeep physical health.

Example 3: Think positively. Those who feel depressed always see the negative parts in themselves. Remember that everyone has good points and not-so-good points. It’s not just you.

Secondly, don’t neglect your daily diet. Those who have mental problems will lost interest in food. You can motivate them to eat more veggie and fruit and Omega-3 because mental people may experience muscle numbness.

2. Chatbot

Thanks to digital innovation that influenced young Cambodian, now educational message about mental health is in online platform called ‘Chatbot’. The platform was just officially launched recently to celebrate “World Mental Health Day”.

Stop Suicide Chatbot is a Facebook messenger that was created by TPO Cambodia donated by Direct Aid Program (DAP) and in partnership with InSTEED iLab. It aims to give information about how to help people with suicidal thought and how to help yourself when you are depressed through inbox messenger of ‘Stop Suicide Cambodia’ Facebook’s page.

Once you go to the ‘messenger’, you will be asked to get started and choose your option: “want to help the other” or “seek help for yourself”. You can follow the instruction for more questions and simple tips to deal with your mental problem particularly on ‘suicide’ cases.

However, ‘Chatbot’ is not designed for online counseling purpose. Yet, it is where you can get knowledge of mental health personally. As it is designed to be an automatic messenger, you may find it difficult to ask your own question.

In case you want free consultancy regarding your mental health, try a hotline call to TPO for free via 017 222 372 (during working hours from Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm). Or you can visit TPO office and website for detail information on suicide prevention: www.tpocambodia.org/suicide-prevention.

3. Meet the expert

If you think you can’t release your mental pressure by yourself or you can’t help people you know how deal with it, experts can help you.

First, you can take them to meet a psychologist to consult their problem. Because the psychologist can help them by changing their mindset from thinking negatively to positively. And motivate them to find the root cause of the problem.

The expert will find out if there is any physical attack involved, in order to find the root cause. If they find out that you are having a problem caused by family, they will do family consultancy called ‘family therapy’. In some cases, the psychologist will practice the consulting method of ‘couple therapy’ or ‘individual therapy’.

Secondly, meet a psychiatrist. In some cases, you need to have medical help to improve your condition before going for consultancy. It aims to reduce the diagnosis related to a patient’s feeling. A psychiatrist can give you the right medicine after diagnosing the symptoms.

Additional reporting by Som Kanika

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