Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cambodia – KR Victims Need Healing

Cambodians perform a play based on the Khmer Rouge regime during a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Choeung Ek killing fields. KT/Chor Sokunthea

More than 30 years after the brutal violence inflicted by the Khmer Rouge regime ended, thousands of Cambodians are still haunted by the traumas suffered under their crushing authoritarian rule.

On Tuesday, the US government awarded Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Cambodia – the nation’s leading provider in the field of mental healthcare and psychosocial support – with an $894,057 grant that will facilitate mental health therapies and healing methods for the country’s many genocide survivors afflicted by the horrors of conflict.

Research has shown that living through the conflict greatly increased the likelihood of developing mental health disorders.

The World Health Organization estimates that globally, 10 percent of victims of traumatic events will suffer from serious mental health issues and another 10 percent will develop behaviors that will inhibit their ability to live and work effectively.

Common conditions like depression and anxiety diminish victims’ mental health, but also affect the interaction of body and mind, with psychosomatic problems such as insomnia, back pain and stomach aches also prevalent.

A 2004 study published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry examined a survey of 1,320 people living in Kampong Cham aged 20 or older. Of the respondents, 42.4 percent reported symptoms that met criteria for depression, 53 percent displayed symptoms of high anxiety and 7.3 percent met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Alarmingly, 29.2 percent had symptoms of both depression and anxiety, while 7.1 percent showed symptoms of all three.

In Cambodia, PTSD that has been directly linked to atrocities suffered during the genocide of 1975-1979 has been particularly concerning.

Research suggests that the traumatic condition is often passed down inter-generationally, affecting children born long after the conflict ended.

A 2009 national probability sample of 1,017 Cambodians taken on post-traumatic stress disorder and disability found that 11.2 percent of adults in Cambodia were living with the condition of which symptoms include hyperactivity, emotional numbness, intrusive thoughts, nightmares and avoidance.

But the effects of war and genocide on mental health reach far beyond the individual, affecting behaviors that touch on greater society.

Disruptive behaviors like domestic violence and substance abuse are often seen in post-conflict societies at troublesome rates.

In recent years, due to greater awareness and the persistent long-term effects on survivors, mental health in post-war zones has become a public health issue of global concern.

“The effects of the Khmer Rouge regime still linger for many Cambodians who lived through that terrible period,” said US Ambassador William Heidt.

“This project will help thousands of Cambodians who continue to suffer from the memory of that era to have access to essential mental health services that will help them to live happier and more productive lives.”

The award will be supported through the United States Agency for International Development in collaboration with Kdei Karuna, a politically-neutral peace-building NGO, and will bring treatment to victims in 15 provinces – the majority located along the Cambodia-Thai border – across the nation.

Safiya Charles

You can find older posts regarding ASEAN politics and economics news at SBC blog, and older posts regarding health and healthcare at IIMS blog. I thank you.

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