Self-care is part of dealing ​with mental health issues

Patients wait to be treated at the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization.
Patients wait to be treated at the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization. Vandy Muong

As Cambodian people continue to cope with surviving decades of war, mental health problems remain a problem due to how people communicate with others and their environment. At times, they have difficulty managing their emotions, which can both lead to and be a symptom of mental illness.

The people around a concerning individual can become stressed as the situation worsens, but it is hard to know what to do if you do not know about mental health issues.

“Psychiatric disorders don’t have the same symptoms as other diseases, but it is a problem that everyone experiences directly or indirectly,” said Sok Phaneth, a mental health training coordinator at the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO).

Sok Phaneth, a mental health training coordinator at the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO).
Sok Phaneth, a mental health training coordinator at the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO). Vandy Muong

According to the number of clients receiving consultation and treatment, nearly 52 percent of the 824 clients in 2016 were dealing with depressive disorders. The majority of people dealing with depressive disorders were women. According to figures from TPO, the number of mental health clients has increased by 100 to 200 every year.

“Among all mental illnesses, depression and anxiety are preventable prior to serious illness,” she said.

Phaneth explained that individual and environmental factors can contribute to mental health issues and make it difficult to cope with because of differences in thinking patterns. Sometimes people around you can make your situation worse.

Irritation, irregular eating, a loss in self-esteem and other factors can contribute to a person’s depression and make it worse. Depression can make people think negative thoughts about their self-esteem, misery and conflict. Self-care programmes can help these people by changing how they think and behave.

“I want everyone to understand the changes in mood and ways to make mental health work effectively, while the individual’s perception of the way we think and the environment around us is the pressure of each individual,” she said.

Phaneth says self-esteem and self-sacrifice are ways to ward off mental illness and keep away from thinking about what’s negative. “We believe in our own capabilities when it comes to effectiveness and results.”

Self-care is not difficult to practice, because it is about self-reliance and calmly handling problems that you encounter.

She said people with depression don’t want to be unhappy but they don’t know how to make their frustrations disappear. With more awareness about the changes in their mood and behaviour, people with depression will be more self-confident because self-care will enable them to make necessary life changes.

“I want people to be interested in changing themselves in a way of thinking and behaving. What matters is that we value each other to solve problems,” she said, adding, “But behaviour change needs to be done every day to become a habit. When it comes to habits, it’s an automated change.”

TPO’s mission is to go to the local level and help people become more aware of any psychological issues they may have. They hope to train people to seek out mental health services as soon as possible to avoid it worsening.

“We try to cope with many mental illnesses and hope that the people are thoroughly aware of the problem,” she said. “For example, if a person has conflict in their relationship, such as trustlessness and arguing, divorce may be the easiest option for the mentally ill. But if the family reconciles to find a way to make the family better, it can greatly reduce [issues].”

Chhon Yoeun, a 46-year-old from Kompong Cham province
Chhon Yoeun, a 46-year-old from Kompong Cham province Vandy Muong

Chhon Yoeun, a 46-year-old patient from Kompong Cham province who has received help from TPO, says she has had a headache for the last five years and has never been diagnosed with a disease.

“When I was introduced here, I realised that I could stop thinking about the problems that I had like business, and ‘future of the children’ problems,” she said, adding that she received treatment for two months. “I was treated with medication after consultations, and I could calm my emotions, relax, feel, eat and rest. Also, I should have come earlier.”

Phat Samphors told the Post Supplement, “My mother has had a mental problem so I took her to a mental health clinic to get counselling and treatment.”

Samphors said his mother had been in the same situation for five years, but she had been upset and has not been able to improve her situation over the last year.

“After she came here and took regular pills, my mother had a better experience. She could sleep, and the children tried to get her on her feet,” he said.

Although all clients are required to pay for the cost of treatment, they may still accept mental health care and treatment services for those who cannot pay.

According to Phaneth, staff members try to use their free time from the project to assist people in mentoring and treatment for serious mental illnesses. Recently, the organisation created its own “self-care” educational programme on Saturdays and Sundays from October to December.

TPO has provided mental health services, with psychological counselling and mental health clinics, since 1995, and the rate of patients seen has remained steady at about 100 to 200 per year. There are still many people who are not aware of mental health issues and treatment. The organisation does not have official donors, so it relies on local residents and the people they help to contribute money for water, power and other materials.