Raised during the aftermath of 40 years of civil war-including
the Khmer Rouge regime which eradicated doctors-he studied medicine
to help his people, graduating as Medical Doctor in 1992 and
becoming one of the first 10 psychiatrists in Cambodia in 1998.
After postgraduate degrees abroad, he could have migrated when
Cambodia was in turmoil, but chose to work in the so-called Killing
Fields. Later he joined a non-profit organization, Transcultural
Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Cambodia, seeking to help the most
disadvantaged people in rural areas.
Mental Health Services
It's estimated that 40% of Cambodians have mental health
problems-the destructive legacy of decades of war, present-day
socio-economic challenges and rapid social change, leave many
Cambodians with untreated mental health problems.
Dr Chhim and his team develop and deliver services that help
people with mental health problems as a result of past wars and
genocide as well as current issues such as gender-based violence
(GBV), alcohol abuse, torture, human trafficking and human rights
violations. Community-based mental health awareness-raising, stigma
reduction, self-help groups for survivors of GBV, rape and torture,
and for alcohol-addicts and prisoners, psychological counseling and
psychiatric treatment are all part of the mix.
They're specialized in helping survivors of the Khmer Rouge
recover from past traumatic experiences: they provide psychological
support to survivors who testify about crimes by the Khmer Rouge at
the Extra-Ordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, conduct
Testimonial Therapy with them, run self-help groups, and provide
Dr Chhim's latest initiative, OPERATION UNCHAIN, treats,
unchains, and rehabilitates mentally ill patients locked up by
family due to poverty, lack of access to treatment, and stigma. It
frees them from physical and mental imprisonment, enables them to
lead a productive life and re-join society. By educating families
and communities, it changes attitudes towards the mentally ill, and
Training & Education
For a low-income, low-resource country such as Cambodia,
training enough highly skilled psychiatrists and psychologists, is
still too costly. So Dr Chhim and TPO offer training programmes in
basic mental health to community members. Trainees are able to
identify, manage and refer people with mental health problems to
mental health professionals. As frontline para-professionals, they
help reduce the overall health burden as well as fear,
discrimination and stigma. Thousands of community resource people,
local authorities, NGO and government workers etc. have been
Dr Chhim also provides primary mental health care training to
Cambodian doctors and nurses, lectures medical students (University
of Health Sciences) and psychology students (Royal University of
Phnom Penh) and supervises thesis work.
Dr Chhim has conducted a study onBaksbat"broken courage", a
uniquely Cambodian cultural trauma syndrome akin to PTSD-a
significant contribution to the field of transcultural psychiatry.
He's undertaken many other studies and set up a research unit at
TPO to gain and share knowledge about mental health in Cambodia,
and to keep strengthening TPO's clinical practices.
Dr Chhim highly values continued learning and has brought a
culture of learning to TPO. With various medical degrees under his
belt and as the only Cambodian psychiatrist with a PhD, he's an
inspiration to his staff, many of whom combine work at TPO with