Nearly 900 people have committed suicide in Cambodia so far this year, with the most common influencing factors being debt, depression, failed relationships, chronic illness or psychosis due to the effects of alcohol and drugs, according to a new report by the National Police.
The report said the leading methods of suicide were hanging, poison, jumping from tall buildings and bridges, self-immolation and firearms.
“A total of 873 people died and 13 others were injured in suicide attempts,” it said.
Globally, suicides have risen steadily since 2016, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), with no country claiming to be able to address this issue successfully.
“Every case is a tragedy that has a lasting impact on survivors, including families, communities and the nation as a whole. It is the fourth-leading cause of death worldwide among people aged 15-29,” said a WHO report.
It points out that although there is a strong connecting between mental illness and suicide in high-income countries, most suicide cases occur in times of crisis, when people feel unable to cope with stress, whether brought on by chronic pain or illness, financial difficulties or the end of a relationship.
Sek Socheat, co-founder of the Mindset Development Organisation, said that suffering from severe social and economic injustices was a motivating factor for some individuals to become mentally ill and often led to depression. In the process of developing severe depression, some patients lose self-control and do not consider their own lives worthless.
“A lack of education mechanisms to raise awareness of mental health issues is one of the reasons why so many people are vulnerable to serious depression. This, coupled with serious social and economic injustices, has led to some patients committing suicide.
“The most urgent and effective solution would be to integrate mental health education into the community and provide socio-economic and health support to more communities,” he told The Post.
Yim Sobotra, a psychiatrist at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, has observed that patients with chronic mental illness or severe depression were often motivated by a perceived lack of opportunities or poverty, or had suffered from excessive violence or abuse.
“If people are aware they are experiencing mental health difficulties, they should seek a consultation with a qualified professional. Receiving treatment from a specialist will help them to manage their stress and anxiety more effectively. Parents, guardians or family members should encourage one another to seek help,” he told The Post.
He added that many people’s understanding of health issues – especially mental health – remains limited. All units and institutions working in areas related to heawlth issues should be working to increase public awareness of mental and physical health. This should be done in a comprehensive and inclusive manner.
Phnom Penh had the highest recorded cases, with 119 deaths. Four people survived their attempts or were rescued. Kampong Cham province suffered the second-most losses, with 66 deaths. Battambang lost 64 people to the same tragic statistic.
The province with the lowest number of recorded suicides was Ratanakkiri, with six.