The majority of young Cambodians live with depression and anxiety without knowing they have a problem, according to psychologists.
High levels of unemployment, combined with pressures brought on by studies, work and rising materialism, have contributed to the problem, the experts said.
Kao Sovandara, a psychology lecturer at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said mental health problems often went unnoticed but manifested in a loss of interest in activities and general inaction.
“For example, the symptoms of the depression include losing interest in daily activities, looking hungry and exhausted, and sometimes suicidal feelings,” he said.
Yim Sobotra, a senior psychiatrist at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, said the root causes of mental disorders were social pressures, while people’s understanding of the issue was still very limited.
“When we talk about mental health, most of people think patients are only very serious cases. And so people dare not to seek mental health support or consultation,” he said.
He added that mental and physical health are closely related. “When there is an emotional pain, it can cause physical pain. When people don’t sleep well because of mental illness, it has physical effects,” he said.
Despite the problems, Sobotra said people seeking consultations related to mental health issues had doubled since 2014.
Ean Nil, a psychologist, said stress, a key contributor to mental ill-health, is very common, but could be countered by meditation and physical activity.
In 2012, official data shows 42 young Cambodians committed suicide due to mental ill-health.