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Covid puts stress on Kingdom’s mental health

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Covid-19 positive people are seen outside the Sen Sok treatment centre in Phnom Penh’s Sek Sok district in August. Hong Menea

Covid puts stress on Kingdom’s mental health

October 10 is World Mental Health Day and the Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation (WHO) have expressed concern for those whose mental health has suffered due to stress and anxiety caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health ministry secretary of state Or Vandine said that mental health was an oft-neglected aspect of people’s lives and that good mental health was strongly correlated with good physical health.

“You should learn how to take care of your mental health to improve it, such as knowing how to relieve stress and anxiety given the context of fighting Covid-19 and the limitations on social activities it has required,” she said.

Vandine provided some advice to people suffering from mental illness during the Covid-19 pandemic, suggesting that they be sure to eat a healthy diet, get at least eight hours of sleep every night, get plenty of physical exercise and share their feelings and worries with family and friends.

She also said that for those people who are particularly suffering at this time it may be advisable for them to seek out help in the form of counselling by a psychologist or therapist.

Covid-19 poses an acute threat to mental health for vulnerable Cambodians such as migrant workers, said Li Ailan, the WHO representative to Cambodia.

She said that the WHO and the United Nations are working together to ensure that these vulnerable groups have access to mental health services and social health support, adding that there is no such thing as the enjoyment of good health without first having good mental health.

Positive thinking and a healthy lifestyle can help anyone to deal with stress and feel better, said Ailan. She noted that mental health can contribute to physical or overall health by boosting immune system functioning, for example, and is therefore an investment towards preventing infectious diseases.

World Mental Health Day is celebrated annually on October 10. The theme for this year is “Mental Health in an Unequal World.”

“We need to raise awareness of inequalities within our own workplaces to ensure that we protect our colleagues who are at higher risk for poor mental health or who may have reduced access to treatment,” said UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres.

UNICEF Cambodia used the occasion to warn about the effects of Covid-19 on the mental health of children and youth in Cambodia and around the world.

According to the latest global estimates, more than one in seven children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 are suffering from mental illness, it said in its report.

The report said that in Cambodia in particular, UNICEF and its partners have conducted socio-economic impact assessments in the context of the spread of Covid-19 and monitored the psychological well-being of the Cambodian people using a number of indicators.

UNICEF said that 45 per cent of the teens surveyed between the ages of 15 and 19 said they were worried about their safety during the Covid-19 outbreak. Another 16 per cent of teens said they had been feeling stressed or depressed since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Challenges faced by teens in Cambodia include negative or hostile peer-group interactions and discrimination along with a general lack of funds that prevents most children from obtaining mental health support services of any kind, the report said.

Foroogh Foyouzat, UNICEF representative to Cambodia, said children in Cambodia and around the world faced many difficult challenges during the Covid-19 crisis.

“The closure of schools, the dramatic changes in social interactions and the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on Cambodian families have all come at great cost to the mental health of children and young people,” she said.

The UN in Cambodia issued a statement on August 22 saying it had trained nearly 3,000 health workers across the country to provide some basic mental and social health support to vulnerable or at-risk populations.

Mental and social health support are important aspects of any response to Covid-19 and further investments in providing access to these kinds of support will contribute to a safer and healthier future for all Cambodians, the statement said.

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