Accepted paper:

The effects of global mental health policies on mental health in Cambodia


Naofumi Yoshida (Waseda university)

Paper short abstract:

After the Pol Pot era, in the early 1990s, Cambodia reinstituted a Western-style mental health system. Thus, since then, ‘global mental health’ policies have affected the transition of the local concept of mental illness and help-seeking behaviours in Cambodia. This impact is the focus of this paper.

Paper long abstract:

This paper describes how 'global mental health' movement and policies have affected local mental health conditions in Cambodia. I collected official Ministry of Health documents related to Cambodia's mental health plans from the 1990s till the 2010s. In addition, I carried out my fieldwork in the clinical setting at the department of psychiatry, Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for a year, ending in September 2011 . The history of Cambodian psychiatry can be traced to the French colonial era, when French institutional psychiatry was gradually introduced into French colonial Cambodia from around 1900. Then Takhmau Psychiatric Hospital was established in 1940, but it was totally destroyed during the Pol Pot era (1975-1979) due to the repression of intellectuals and the killing of most of the medical staff. However, after the Pol Pot era, in the early 1990s, Cambodia re-established a Western-style mental health system with the support of the international community and implemented an educational programme to train psychiatrists. Yet some care has continued to be provided by traditional healers, like Kruu Khmer, monks, village elders or mediums, and traditional medicine remains widely popular among the local population. In this paper, I especially focus on the transition of the concept of mental illness and help-seeking behaviours in Cambodia after the reinstitution of the Western-style mental health system in the 1990s.

panel LD36
Ethnographic perspectives on 'global mental health'