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UN trains 3,000 in mental health

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Members of a medical team working to prevent the spread of Covid-19 pose for a group photo in Tonle Bassac commune of Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district on June 16. Heng Chivoan

UN trains 3,000 in mental health

The UN in Cambodia has trained nearly 3,000 health workers nationwide to provide mental health and psychosocial support to Covid-19 vulnerable people.

In a statement on August 22, the UN said it had worked with the Ministry of Health’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse to train staff to provide mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) to vulnerable people, including returning migrants.

“As a result, 2,778 [969 females and 1,809 males] health staff from health centres and districts referral hospitals in 24 provinces and Phnom Penh gained knowledge and skills on MHPSS in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said.

Health workers at health centres and hospitals, rehabilitation centres and prisons need to ensure that any person in need of these services will receive them without discrimination. This ensures that essential mental health services and psychosocial support are provided during Covid-19, it added.

“Mental health and psychosocial support is an important part of the Covid-19 response and further investment in this support will contribute to a safer and healthier future for all Cambodians.

“Now is the time to take advantage of the progress made through the Covid-19 response and build better mental health systems for the future,” it said.

Action that needs to be taken includes addressing the underfunding of mental health, taking a systems approach to deliver equitable, effective and accessible services based on human rights principles and promoting mental health beyond the health sector, said the press release.

The UN said it had also improved the abilities of those in other sectors including local authorities, social workers, and education to ensure the widespread availability of MHPSS to everybody, especially the most vulnerable and hard to reach.

In May 2020, the World Bank estimated that the pandemic threatened at least 1.7 million jobs in Cambodia, placing huge socio-economic and emotional stress on the people.

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine could not be reached for comment on August 23.

In May 2020, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres issued a policy brief calling for concrete action on mental health.

His brief provided solid policy guidance for the UN, governments, civil society and other stakeholders to minimise health consequences caused by the pandemic.

Good mental health is critical to the proper functioning of any society. It must be central to every country’s response to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is an urgent priority, he said.

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