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Mental-health and psychosocial support should be integrated into humanitarian responses

Thank you to MinnPost for bringing local awareness to the mental health needs of Cambodians (“Cambodia suffers from an appalling mental health crisis,” June 18). I was particularly gratified to see the author reference the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO Cambodia) as one of the largest organizations in the mental health sector in that country.

Since 2005, the St. Paul-based Center for Victims of Torture has partnered with TPO Cambodia to assist it with providing high quality mental health services to torture survivors in three critical areas: mental health treatment and healing; monitoring and evaluation to show the impact of the mental health services; and organizational development. This work is made possible through the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development and the American people’s support.

Created to respond to the psychological needs of Cambodians that resulted from years of war and violence, TPO Cambodia provides care for those suffering from ongoing trauma-related mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. They are part of a growing movement of 140 torture survivor rehabilitation centers around the world who are working to provide effective multidisciplinary services to torture survivors.

Particularly in areas of war and unspeakable atrocities, more must be done to better integrate mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian responses during and after crises. This is especially true for torture and war trauma survivors whose early detection of mental health disorders and treatment is vital to their recovery.

By making mental health and psychosocial support a global priority, nations can take a giant step toward breaking cycles of decades-long violence and strengthening and improving the lives of so many.

Pam Kriege Santoso is a staff member of The Center for Victims of Torture.

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