Catalyst Asia: Cambodia's Growing Mental Health Problem

September 18, 2015

 Cambodia's mental health facilities are understaffed and under-financed, crippling a population of people who are plagued with mental health issues from the Khmer Rouge. (Credit: Kara Fox)

Cambodia's mental health facilities are understaffed and under-financed, crippling a population of people who are plagued with mental health issues from the Khmer Rouge. (Credit: Kara Fox)

By Dene-Hern Chen and Chan Muyhong

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Long Ratana was a teenager when the Khmer Rouge began its brutal regime. Assigned to work in a children’s unit, the 50-year-old remembers having to labour under dire conditions with little food. She remembers the verbal abuse heaped upon her by Khmer Rouge cadres. And she remembers looking down the barrel of a gun, convinced that she was going to die.

“I had a gun pointed straight at me when Khmer Rouge cadres caught me and my friend picking beans from a farm,” Ms. Ratana recounted. “It’s a crime [to forage for food without permission] at that time, but I was hungry.”

“That experience has stayed with me. It made me feel very inferior,” she said, explaining that this feeling seeped into her daily life. “I always felt like there was a weakness inside of me.”

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