A group of mental health advocates called Arom Station is raising awareness about mental health in Cambodia and identifying the lingering issues within the Cambodian mindset. The project includes free mental health consultation over an online platform for those in need.
Arom Station develops and publishes mental health-related content on social media to raise awareness with the general public. Currently, they are on Facebook, Instagram, Clubhouse and Tik Tok where they publish material promoting good mental health.
Ngin Ratanakromanea, one of the founders of Arom Station, said the project has provided consultations to approximately 100 people from various backgrounds. Thirty per cent of those who had a consultation session were facing mental health issues caused directly or indirectly by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The people who contacted us online are mostly encountering what we’d consider a normal stress reaction. They do not have a mental illness, but they have mental health issues […] But if [left untreated] it could affect their daily life – work or study – which could become mental illness.
“We have also encountered mental illnesses such as depression,” he said.
Ratanakromanea said the team initiated free online consultations in May because Covid-19 was making it a challenge for anyone to receive in-person consultations.
Their nearly one-year-old project has been offering free consultations via Zoom with appointments made over Facebook Messenger. At the same time – because their consultations are online only – they advise that anyone with a severe mental illness meet with a professional face-to-face.
Beyond the consultations, Arom Station’s social media has covered several topics using multimedia presentations including general mental health, pregnant women’s and children’s mental health and Covid-19-related mental health content.
Ratanakromanea said what inspired them to start Arom Station was a general lack of services provided in the psychiatric field in Cambodia.
“Have you ever noticed how others label us as insane when we are sad or suffering from a mental illness? We see it practically everywhere and it prevents people from seeking professional care or speaking openly about their mental health,” he said.
Founded in September, 2020, Arom Station calls itself a social enterprise, with nine employees, seven psychiatrists and graduate students.
“Being in this sector means that, in addition to taking care of patients, we must work with the community to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. We must do everything possible to normalise the discussion of mental health because mentality is equal to physicality. If we can talk about physical illnesses normally, we can also talk about mental illness as normal.”
Nhean Vitheavy, a sophomore from the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said she followed Arom Station’s social media even though she does not have any mental illness.
“I learn from Arom Station because their content is knowledgeable and professional.
“I don’t have any mental health issue, but I have learned a lot about it from them. So, in the future, if I have an issue or know someone has a problem, I will know what to do,” Vitheavy said.
Ratanakromanea said Arom Station would continue to promote good mental health in Cambodia for a long time to come.
“If Cambodians’ mental health was better, and around 80-90 per cent of them understood mental health, and were capable of helping themselves in the primary stages of illness and speak up about it regularly then I think that would be time for Arom Station to declare our mission accomplished,” said Ratanakromanea.