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Stampede hotline launched

AN official at the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation said yesterday that staff had received 20 calls to a newly established hotline set up to offer free counseling services to people traumatised by last week’s stampede on Diamond Island.

“Among the 20 callers, only one was a victim at the scene, while the rest learned of the tragedy from TV,” said Taing Soeun Hun, a mental health advisor at TPO.

He said the hotline was opened on Friday and would receive calls from victims, witnesses, emergency workers and anyone else experiencing trauma following the stampede.

Preliminary results of a government inquiry have indicated that the incident occurred around 10:30 pm on Monday last week when thousands panicked following the swaying of a suspension bridge.

The official death toll stands at 351, and 395 people have been reported injured, according to government figures.

Men Sothy, who survived the stampede along with four family members, said he and other survivors “cannot forget for their whole life” the tragedy they witnessed.

He said, however, that he had felt some relief after talking with TPO staff.

“I feel much better now after the experts suggested I forget the old memories and do whatever makes me happy,” he said. “I want to erase those memories but will need some time.”

Nhim Sobotra, deputy chief of the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital’s Mental Health Consultation and Treatment division, said very few victims or witnesses of the stampede had taken advantage of the hospital’s free counseling services.

“Apart from physical treatment, they also suffered serious mental problems … but so far there is still a small number of direct and indirect victims coming for our consultation,” he said.

He added that many people didn’t take advantage of such services because they didn’t “understand clearly what a mental problem is”.

“They consider nightmares, or being shocked, stunned, frightened and sad … as normal for people, but these are mental problems which they could share with their friends and family members or go to the mental health specialists to heal the problems,” he said.

Taing Soeun Hun said TPO hotline staff would provide initial 30-minute telephone consultations, followed by further treatment if necessary.

To contact the TPO hotline, dial 017 222 372 or 017 666 506, and a staff member will return your call.

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