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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mental health for the whole family

Mental health for the whole family


A traditional style, eight-bed-room house stands amidst palm trees at the Center

for Child Mental Health (CCMH) at Chey Chumneas Hospital in Kandal province.

Dr Mam Bun Heng, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Health, cuts a ribbon at the inauguration of the new parent training center and family cottage at the CCMH in Kandal Province.

The building is a new "family cottage" inaugurated September 4 to provide

free accommodation for poor families, enabling them to travel from remote rural areas

to receive mental health treatment.

CCMH is the only unit dedicated to child mental health in the country. Cambodia's

traumatic recent past means it is desperately needed, said the center's director

Dr J. Bhoomi Kumar.

He said Khmer Rouge policies, which separated families by placing children in work

camps away from their parents, were a major cause of current mental health issues.

"We learn parenting from our parents, and a whole generation missed out on having

parents, so they now have difficulty handling their own children," Dr Kumar

said, explaining that two thirds of children's problems mirrored issues within their

own families.

His words were echoed by Dr Mam Bun Heng, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health,

who inaugurated the parent training center and family cottage. Dr Mam spoke of the

impact of Cambodia's "long period of genocide and war" on the population.

"This center can play an effective role in saving the population and training

staff and parents to care for children with mental health problems," he said.

"It is great to help parents and children together."

Dr Kumar said his center regarded children as part of the family unit, and provided

long-term therapy for the entire family intermittently over a period of at least

three years. That meant parents could gain the requisite skills allowing them to

relate to and handle their children.

The new facilities, including a pharmacy, accommodation, a "one-way mirror room,"

and a training hall cost $62,000. The family cottage allows those getting treatment

to stay for between two and six weeks without worrying about the cost of accommodation.

"[The therapy] will empower parents and give them confidence and a clearer understanding

about children's problems," Dr Kumar said. "They are happy to come as a

family unit - it makes them closer and also brings couples together because they

stop blaming each other."

CCMH provided more than 2,300 consultations in the first six months of this year.

Dr Kumar said at least 10 percent of the population have psychological problems,

and with more than half the population under 18, the demand for child mental health

services was extremely high.

Such demand, said Dr Kumar, meant his center would remain "a drop in the ocean

that cannot fulfill the needs of the whole community".

"We want to train nurses, teachers and caretakers to help where children live

in their own communities," Dr Kumar said. "[People] have no time to come

here. They spend their time on survival needs."

The Center for Child Mental Health began in 1991 as a collaborative project between

the Dr Marcel Charles Roy Foundation, Caritas Cambodia and the Ministry of Health.

It helps children with psychiatric problems, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, developmental

problems and multiple handicaps.



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