“There is no health without mental health” said Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary, on the 2011 World Mental Health Day. Mental health is an integral and essential component of health as mental disorders are among the leading causes of disability (WHO 2005 estimation, Mathers & Loncar, 2005; Murray & Lopez, 1997). Worldwide epidemiological data show that prevalence rates for child and adolescent mental disorders are around 20%, and types of disorders vary only little across different cultures. It is alarming to see a very early start of psychological aberrant behaviors in life; therefore, about half of all lifetime mental disorders begin before the age of 14 years (Saxena, Thornicroft, Knapp & Whiteford, 2007). Mental illness unfortunately often develops into chronic disorders, especially if untreated for a long period of time due to a lack of services and economic resources or fear of losing face and feelings of shame. Regardless of these alarming facts, analysis of data from the WHO’s Atlas project shows widespread, systematic, and long-term neglect of resources for mental health care in low and middle income countries (WHO, 2005, Saxena, Sharan, Garrido & Saraceno, 2006). This phenomenon is even more prominent in the poorest countries as they spend the smallest proportion of their already scarce resources on mental health (less than 1%) (Saxena et al., 2007).
Mental health has been neglected in Cambodia, and young people have very limited access to any mental health information and services. With arising trends in violence against women and marginalized populations (such as gays and transgender people), drug abuse, and binge drinking in recent years, Cambodian youths need to learn more about how to cope with stressful life events and seek for professional help for emotional problems. We are proposing to revise an information web site, My Tree of Life (My TOL), for young population (age of 15 to 30 years old) to promote mental health and provide counseling services.
Project Goals & Approach
The My TOL web site is targeted on young people who are between 15 and 30 years old and Khmer speaking, with Internet access. Our objective is to improve and expanding online mental health information and online counseling to the youths. The main format for the My TOL web site includes (1) mental health information postings and discussions, and (2) online Q&A sessions.
Mental health information posting and discussions include tips to cope with stress from life events (such as love and relationship, job, family relationship, school difficulties, grieves and anger management), situational stories to promote gender equality and to decrease violence against women and marginal populations, and news analysis on mental health problems from the media (such as news stories or Facebook viral posts). For example, our psychological counseling team would analyze current news about violence against a female TV host, and provide information to manage youth’s anger and to create more respects to gender equality.
Online Q&A session is to encourage young people to talk about their emotional problems anonymously through online forms and email, our team will answer the questions with private email or through public Q&A sharing forums online (consented by the young senders without any personal identifiers). We will encourage young people to share their experiences through email letter format to us. The team will assist them in finding options for changes and solutions to problems. If these problems were complicated, we would provide a referral to the counseling services at HDRC or other psychological counseling NGOs.
The MYTOL project was initially funded by the Development Innovation (DI) with USAID Funding, as part of Facebook’s internet.org platform in 2016. The promotion for young people to access this My TOL web site started on the HDRC organization web site and two Facebook Pages (HDRC and CBBH) since 2016, by creating sharing links and special postings. All counselors in the team have worked at various psychological counseling NGOs, and they gave out the link of My TOL web site to coworkers and young clients. With Development Innovation’s grant funding, we also printed posters, leaflets, and small promotion cards with the web link to distribute at HDRC and other NGO project sites and schools in 2016.