Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Cambodia - Employment Affecting Students’ Mental Health
Unemployment is a major cause of concern for any society economically, and now psychologists are warning that stress over not being able to find work is becoming a major cause of mental illness among young people.
Speaking at an event to mark Youth Mental Health Day at the Royal University of Phnom Penh on Friday, Kao Sovandara, a psychology lecturer at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), said that based on research he conducted in 2014, unemployment or anxiety over choosing the wrong career are now a major cause of mental health problems among students at the university.
“Based on my research in 2014 on students at RUPP, 62% had some kind of psychological problem. The two major problem areas were relationships and unemployment,” Mr. Sovandara said, adding that unemployment remains a leading cause of mental illness among the young.
“Unemployment causes a feeling of helplessness. People are worried about whether they will get a job or not,” he said.
Unemployment is one of the many social issues that frequently lead to mental illness. Mr. Sovandara explained that mental illness results from pressures imposed by the living environment as well as social issues.
“They are worried that they don’t have a job or they see someone else get a job while they cannot; these are the main factors in mental illness related to unemployment,” Mr. Sovandara explained.
Yim Sobotra, a psychiatrist at SMC mental clinic, said that mental problems caused by unemployment are a concern in every country in ASEAN, and not only in Cambodia. The problem mostly affects the young. Some patients develop a problem when they are young and continue suffering into later years.
“Not only in Cambodia, but also throughout ASEAN, when young people lose their jobs they get depressed, grow disappointed, and sometimes they blame themselves for taking the wrong job,” he said.
“It can lead to depression and even suicide when they hide themselves at home for a long time and can’t find a job, while their friends are already working,” he added.
Counseling is advised for young people who face mental illness due to unemployment.
For people who are uncertain about where their strengths lie, it is easy to take the wrong career path. Finding out early what their interests are helps youth choose the right path so they will get more motivation to keep moving forward, even when they fail.
Men Sokhan, a counselor at the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Cambodia, said that identifying their strengths helps youth plan their lives better. He spoke about cases where students had chosen the wrong major to study, one that didn’t reflect their talents and interests. The organization has provided counseling services to the public in Cambodia for more than 16 years.
“You have to think about what you like, what kind of temperament you have, and what your talents are in order to find your strengths,” he said.
“If you know that you are short tempered, you can use this knowledge to prepare yourself to participate in society,” he explained.
This was the fourth year that Youth Mental Health Day events have been held to raise awareness about mental health issues among students at RUPP and the general public. This year more than 2,000 people attended.
The event aims to introduce students to the symptoms of mental illness and to raise awareness of the availability of psychiatric counseling services with help from 16 mental health organizations in the Kingdom.
“Now I can see that students understand more about mental health; the number of students visiting consultation rooms at the Psychology Department is increasing,” Mr. Sovandara said.
“Students who move from the provinces are vulnerable to mental illness since they are under pressure to adapt to different social and living environments,” he said.
According to Mr. Sovandara, 500 students sought advice at the department in 2015.