Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health professionals have seen an increase in psychological problems in the Kingdom as a result of stress, economic impacts like job losses and other disruptions to normal daily life, according to a prominent local psychotherapist.

Yim Sotheary, director of Sneha Centre – a counselling firm specialising in assisting individuals with mental health and psychological support – was speaking of her experiences on World Mental Health Day, observed this year with the theme “Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority”.

The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) mark World Mental Health Day on October 10. The day is observed annually to promote mental health, raise awareness and intervene in mental health problems, prevent discrimination against individuals with mental health problems and strengthen mental health services to provide good quality and coverage across the globe.

Sotheary said there are reasons behind depression and stress, often resulting from the impacts of childhood, parental and social trauma, with Cambodia’s harrowing recent history leaving invisible mental scars across large segments of the population.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 outbreak had increased mental health issues in Cambodia and across the world, with the pandemic bringing fear and worry, restricting movement and interactions, as well as having affected the economy and jobs, she added.

“In Cambodia, I have seen that the many challenges faced recently have resulted in mental health conditions, especially among the youth. They suffer from stress and bouts of depression.

“In order to help with mental illness, everyone – family members, friends and people in the workplace – has to consider mental health and wellbeing issues as a priority,” she said.

Sotheary continued that often people do not realise when they have developed a mental health condition, either because they do not know what symptoms to look for or know where to look for services or who can help them. She suggested that relevant institutions work together on raising awareness.

“A sense of community must be formed. The bonds of solidarity with one another should be enhanced as people here still have a low level of understanding about mental health,” she said.

Sotheary called on the general public to avoid passing judgment on others based on appearances or gossiping about their problems, because to truly determine who has developed a mental illness, they must be diagnosed in a clinical setting after consulting with experts.

The health ministry has so far launched a mental illness checkup and treatment services programme at a specialist level in 10 national hospitals and referral hospitals in the capital and provinces, at the basic services level in 97 more hospitals and clinics and at a preliminary diagnosis level in 355 health centres.

The year 2021 saw 87,284 people, 50,653 of them women, use the services at public health institutions, with 82,964 outpatient consultations provided and 4,320 people, 2,739 of them women, hospitalised for mental illnesses.