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Psychological distress high among disabled

Amputees make their way through the National Rehabilitation Center for the Disabled last year in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district.
Amputees make their way through the National Rehabilitation Center for the Disabled last year in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district. Vireak Mai

Psychological distress high among disabled

People with disabilities and their families in two Cambodian provinces – Kampong Cham and Tbong Khmum – experience significant psychological distress, endure discrimination and stigma and their rights “remain largely unrecognised”, a new study has found.

A draft of the joint-study by NGOs Louvain Cooperation and Handicap International in Cambodia – which will still undergo a few modifications – was made public on Friday.

A total of 230 participants were selected for the research, which found that most people faced psychological distress due to several factors, such as social exclusion, stigma and discrimination, as well as family conflict and a lack of employment.

Thann Khem, program manager at Louvain Cooperation, said a program to provide free mental health services for people with disabilities will be launched next year, following the release of the final version of the study.

“The purpose of this study was to find out the problems our disabled people face and [then] give them health services to meet their needs,” he said.

A third of respondents reported feeling worried, regretful, upset, embarrassed, lonely and angry all the time.

“Additionally, the level of physical impairment is a major determinant of the degree of psychological distress,” the study points out.

Min Chenda, a technical assistant at Handicap International, said the study also found that people lost confidence in themselves after becoming disabled due to road accidents and landmine explosions.

Many of them also faced discrimination, she added.

Being teased accounted for 50 percent of the discrimination faced by women, compared to a 54 percent for men. Being insulted in conversation accounted for 29 percent of discrimination experienced by women, and 24 percent for men.

Em Chanmakara, secretary-general of Cambodia’s Disability Action Council, said the 2009 Law on the Protection and Promotion of Rights of Persons with Disabilities was still not yet fully implemented, but insisted that was due to a lack of resources, not commitment.

“The government can’t do it alone,” he said, adding that there’s no timeframe to have the law fully implemented.

However, he said that the government is making progress. For example, building accessibility guidelines are expected to be approved later this month by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Land Management.

People with disabilities represent 4 percent of Cambodia’s total population.

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