Unicef Cambodia has launched a new campaign to raise awareness around mental health.
The campaign, called “I Feel Better When…”, is funded by USAID Cambodia and was developed in collaboration with TPO Cambodia and the Child Helpline.
The campaign is informed by research showing that the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated an already profound mental health crisis facing young people across the world, including in Cambodia. UNICEF’s State of the World report in 2021 found that more than 1 in 7 adolescents globally lives with a diagnosed mental disorder.
In Cambodia, UNICEF and its partners’ socio-economic impact study found that 45 per cent of the surveyed adolescents worried about their safety during the pandemic, and 16 per cent felt more anxious or depressed since the crisis began.
In addition, a joint education needs assessment conducted by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, the Education Sector Working Group, and UNICEF found that 58 per cent of secondary school students reported experiencing at least one mental health issue.
A June 15 press release from UNICEF said the Joining Forces Alliance – a coalition of the six largest child rights international non-government organisations – confirmed the extent of the crisis this month and called for nationwide action.
As a result of the findings, UNICEF has made mental health one of its key global priorities as the world recovers from the pandemic.
“There was already a child mental health crisis but the pandemic has certainly made the situation worse,” said Anirban Chatterjee, programme deputy representative at UNICEF Cambodia. “Schools closing and restrictions prevented positive social interactions, and families faced enormous socio-economic challenges, all of which negatively affected the mental health of children and young people.”
“UNICEF is working to put this issue at the forefront of the Covid-19 recovery agenda. Improving mental health is going to require action at all levels of government and society. This campaign is designed to help them overcome stigma and give them much-needed tools to prioritise their wellbeing,” he added.
UNICEF said young people are the driving force behind the campaign. The organisation consulted with focus groups of children and young adults from urban and rural Cambodia to explore their understanding and experience of mental health.
The creative team at Phare Creative Studio then developed campaign concepts based on the young people’s insights, which were tested and further developed.
The focus groups demonstrated that young Cambodians had a strong grasp of what poor mental health was and ways it could be improved, said the press release.
They believed that poverty or the absence of parents were leading causes of poor mental health, and that talking to friends was a good way of tackling stress. However, the majority said they feared taking the latter step because of stigma and potential discrimination. They embraced the “I Feel Better When…” concept because, as one participant said, “if you don’t want to speak, it’s okay, you can find another solution to your stress by doing positive activities”.
“I Feel Better when…” was launched with a video showing young Cambodians using positive coping mechanisms such as sport, friendship and creative pursuits to improve their mental health, and will be followed by three months of sustained online activity raising awareness and providing tips and guidance to young people.
UNICEF invites partners, schools and all organisations in Cambodia which are concerned with young people’s mental health to use the content and assets it is producing for this campaign. They will be available through UNICEF Cambodia’s social media channels.