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Gov’t aims to fill gap in mental health services

Health Ministry officials hold a meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh to discuss the lack of mental health treatment in Cambodia. Photo supplied
Health Ministry officials hold a meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh to discuss the lack of mental health treatment in Cambodia. Photo supplied

Gov’t aims to fill gap in mental health services

Not all Cambodians suffering from depression are seeking services due to lingering stigma and the persistent scarcity of mental health services in the Kingdom, officials and experts said yesterday.

Dr Chhit Sophal, director of the Ministry of Health’s department of mental health and substance abuse, said during a press conference that people suffering from depression “don’t dare” talk about it.

“The ministry has a difficult time controlling [depression] because most of [the people] don’t understand what depression is,” he said.

The press conference was part of several activities leading up to Friday’s World Health Day, the theme of which this year is depression.

Dr Yel Daravuth, with World Health Organization (WHO) Cambodia, said that based on numbers from a recent WHO global report, there could be as many as 4 people out of every 100 suffering from depression in the Kingdom.
However, to get an accurate number, Cambodia would need a national survey.

“[Given] the history of the country, we believe that the number with depression might be higher than what was determined by the global data,” he said, alluding to the country’s years of brutal Khmer Rouge rule and civil war.

However, only about 9.3 percent of the country’s health centres offer mental health services. Some 60 percent of the national and referral hospitals provide such treatment.

The government that 50 percent of health care centres offer the services by 2020.

Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro

Read more: Chained up, out of sight: Desperate families often keep mentally ill relatives in squalid conditions

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