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01.12.2018 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

International Journal of Mental Health Systems 1/2018

Mental health in primary health care in a rural district of Cambodia: a situational analysis

International Journal of Mental Health Systems > Ausgabe 1/2018
Sofia Olofsson, Miguel San Sebastian, Bhoomikumar Jegannathan
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13033-018-0185-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



While mental and substance use disorders are common worldwide, the treatment gap is enormous in low and middle income countries. Primary health care is considered to be the most important way for people to get mental health care. Cambodia is a country with a long history of war and has poor mental health and limited resources for care. The aim of this study was to conduct a situational analysis of the mental health services in the rural district of Lvea Em, Kandal Province, Cambodia.


A cross-sectional situational analysis was done to understand the mental health situation in Lvea Em District comparing it with the national one. The Programme for improving mental health care (PRIME) tool was used to collect systematic information about mental health care from 14 key informants in Cambodia. In addition, a separate questionnaire based on the PRIME tool was developed for the district health care centres (12 respondents). Ethical approval was obtained from the National Ethics Committee for Health Research in Cambodia.


Mental health care is limited both in Lvea Em District and the country. Though national documents containing guidelines for mental health care exist, the resources available and health care infrastructure are below what is recommended. There is no budget allocated for mental health in the district; there are no mental health specialists and the mental health training of health care workers is insufficient. Based on the limited knowledge from the respondents in the district, mental health disorders do exist but no documentation of these patients is available. Respondents discussed how community aspects such as culture, history and religion were related to mental health. Though there have been improvements in understanding mental health, discrimination and abuse against people with mental health disorders seems still to be present.


There are very limited mental health care services with hardly any budget allocated to them in Lvea Em District and Cambodia overall. There is dire need for scaling up and integrating mental health into primary health care to improve the population’s access to and quality service of Cambodian mental care.
Additional file 1. Adapted PRIME situation analysis tool.
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