National Police reports reveal a concerning pattern of individuals ending their lives through methods like jumping off bridges or hanging, although specific suicide and rescue figures for this year so far remain unrevealed.

Victims span diverse demographics, including the young, elderly, and those with high social standing. The motives behind such incidents vary.

Notably, in October, a 10-year-old boy from Samlei Khang Cheung village, Samlei commune, Kampong Ro district in Svay Rieng province, tragically took his own life through hanging.

“I cherished my son deeply. He excelled in learning English, and witnessing his academic success brought me immense joy. Returning home from work, his enthusiasm infused me with energy. However, since his passing, I find no motivation to work, and tears fill my days,” says Uth Sary, father of the 10-year-old.

He shares that his son, a fifth-grade student and the youngest in the family, was watching TV with his older sister one day in October. While seated on her lap, the sister asked him not to sit there. Following this, the son left the house. Unfortunately, the daughter was unaware that he had hung himself with a rope behind a cow shed.

He goes on to express that he hesitates to categorise the death as an accident. However, he had noticed a recurring behaviour in his son’s daily life — the habit of frequently checking his phone when he was alive.

“I wish to send a message to parents, urging them to regularly inquire about their children’s feelings and needs. It is important to dedicate ample time to be present and engaged with their children’s emotions,” he emphasises.

Counselling outreach

In 2022, a total of 873 people died and 13 others were injured in suicide attempts from January to December 20, according to National Police report.

Disregarding the grim toll of lives lost, data from Child Helpline Cambodia in November reveals that from early 2023 to October, 36 individuals attempted suicide out of 653 who underwent psychological counselling at the NGO, according to Thoun Sreypov, counselling supervisor at Child Helpline Cambodia.

She said that the 36 individuals who attempted suicide were individuals aged 15 to over 25. Some had faced recurring suicidal thoughts before seeking psychological support.

“I grew weary of a life filled with constant troubles, enduring it became unbearable. I concealed the harsh realities, existing in a society where people presented a facade of truthfulness and sincerity to my face. The sight of people I love became unbearable, prompting occasional contemplation of suicide. 

“I wished to spare others from my struggles, feeling depleted with nothing left, plunging my life into darkness. Every action seemed wrong, and my feelings remained misunderstood. Each attempt at communication was met with scolding,” Sreypov quotes a person who grappled with suicidal thoughts.

She notes that Child Helpline Cambodia offers counselling to individuals with mental health challenges, providing support through calls to 1280 or by reaching out to the Child Helpline Cambodia Facebook page for free consultations at any time.

Expanding on this, she mentions that multiple communication channels allow individuals to express various concerns related to their unhappiness or issues affecting their mental wellbeing.

Adolescent vulnerability

Sreypov observes a vulnerability in the mental state of children and adolescents compared to adults. She attributes this to the substantial pressures young people face in dealing with problems within their lives, such as family or friendship issues, for which they may struggle to find solutions independently. 

On the other hand, adults often grapple with psychological crises linked to economic hardships and family issues like violence and debt, where some may feel trapped with no apparent solutions, leading to attempts at suicide.

“I’ve encountered many service recipients aged 30 and over, and one common reason for their desire to end their lives is often attributed to overwhelming debt,” she shares.

She highlights that her organisation offers individuals primary consulting services, with consultants adhering to professional and ethical standards of conduct. The service providers deliver consultation and support while regularly monitoring the wellbeing of their clients.

“If, during the initial consultation, we determine that our support can contribute to their mental improvement, we persist in working with them. However, if we identify a client with a severe mental state beyond our expertise, we promptly refer them to services provided by a psychological expert or a psychiatrist,” she explains.

Yet, Sreypov suggests that individuals suspecting they have a mental illness should regularly assess their emotional state. They should undergo a self check by answering questions about their current feelings. They should consider the challenges posed by those emotions, evaluate their strengths and determine what they require in response to those emotions.

Diverse paths to help

Yim Sobotra, head of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, notes that depression is the most commonly associated factor with suicide.

“We can say that 70 per cent of mental illnesses were a contributing factor to suicide. We have witnessed various methods, including jumping off the Chroy Changvar bridge, hanging from buildings and ingesting pills to end their own lives,” he adds.

He continues that violent suicide involves methods like stabbing or shooting oneself to death. It is associated with a deep bout of depression, and not just a general form. Depression, in this context, is a highly serious illness with various types, yet not all depressions lead to suicidal ideation or attempts; only severe depression can escalate to suicide.

“We refer to depression as a hidden killer because individuals experiencing it often avoid seeking medical help or even wanting to continue living. Their desire is to end the suffering, making it challenging for them to address such a profound issue,” he states.

Sek Socheat, co-founder of the Mindset Development Organisation, tells The Post that suicides occur frequently in Cambodia. He regards it as a weapon in disguise that destroy human resources.

“The causes of individuals’ mental crises stem from various factors. Firstly, a decline in education; secondly, socio-economic factors; thirdly, social injustice; and fourthly, I have observed the security and safety concerns of individuals indebted to private microfinance institutions. All these factors have become significant burdens for people,” he adds.

Socheat continues that depression often causes people to lose control, resorting to misusing drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse can lead to brain damage and additional mental health concerns, contributing to suicidal problems. It is a complex issue to address within a political, social, economic, cultural, ethical and moral context that appears to be notably declining.

Venerable Khim Sorn, chief monk of Phnom Penh, advises engaging in good deeds connected with virtuous individuals, even if one has previously committed wrongdoing. This guidance aligns with the teachings of the Buddha and the broader community, including scholars and skilled storytellers.

“We must heed the words of guidance and align ourselves with individuals who engage in virtuous actions,” he emphasises.

“When faced with life’s challenges, avoid solitary struggles in secrecy. Being alone can lead to severe problems and regrettable actions. If unhappy, seek advice from trusted sources, such as parents, siblings, and those in the community who uphold goodness,” he adds.