Damaged Mental Health: The Secret Symptom of Covid-19

By Robert Common, Managing Partner, The Beekeeper

Cambodia hasn’t experienced a lot of Covid-19 cases, but there is one related symptom that has struck hard: damaged mental health. The economic pain caused by the pandemic has been enormous, with 150,000 losing jobs, especially in textiles and tourism. When you also add fears over catching the virus, and the limitations placed on social activity, it isn’t surprising mental difficulties have risen, along with a sharp spike in addiction to alcohol and/ or drugs.

The Cambodian Government has recognised the problem. On July 20th, the Ministry of Health issued guidelines for good mental health, encouraging people to pay attention to their feelings, speak out about them, and seek counselling and treatment when necessary. These are welcome recommendations in a country where there remain deep taboos on mental health.

Unfortunately, many mental health services in Cambodia have closed or cut back on services. Sometimes this has been because of financial problems, sometimes because foreign staff returned to home countries. That’s why we opened this new mental health and wellness centre in central Phnom Penh. Some friends thought it was foolish to open a new social enterprise at a time when hundreds of businesses were closing, but we believed this time of need was the right time for us.

Not only do we want our trained team of therapists to treat mental health directly, supported by our range of yoga, meditation and mindfulness classes, but we want to be a voice speaking out about it. Even talking can sometimes ease mental pain, as can knowing that others experience it too. We want to play our part in starting a national conversation about mental health and have started a series on social media, hashtagged #LetsTalkMentalHealthKH. This virus has been a calamity, but if it gets Cambodians talking about mental health, something good may still come out of it.

A full version of this piece appeared in the Khmer Times.

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