On 10 October 2017, World Mental Health Day, the Dr. Guislain Museum and Janssen Research & Development, LLC named Dr. Sotheara Chhim the 2017 winner of the Dr. Guislain “Breaking the Chains of Stigma” Award. The award honors Dr. Chhim for his extraordinary efforts developing mental health services in Cambodia through scientific therapeutic approaches.
Dr. Chhim is the executive director and senior consultant psychiatrist of the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Cambodia, the country’s leading Non-Government Organization (NGO) in the field of mental health care and psychosocial support. Under his leadership, TPO Cambodia has developed and implemented programs to raise awareness about psychosocial and mental health conditions in many parts of Cambodia. Dr. Chhim and TPO have also provided mental health counselling, treatment, and specialized services for prisoners, gender-based violence survivors and torture survivors. To date, more than 220,000 patients and families have benefitted from his and his team’s work.
In 2015, Dr. Chhim launched Operation Unchain, an initiative to help the poverty-stricken rural communities of Cambodia where mental health treatment, awareness and resources are unavailable, which results in patients being locked up or chained. Operation Unchain provides treatment to these patients and educates their families and communities on mental health leading to a change of attitude towards the mentally ill. It also provides a chance for the patients to lead productive lives. Since its launch, this project has treated 68 patients who were chained or caged between two to 20 years, impacting 62 communities.
“After experiencing the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime and the lack of mental health care, I was inspired to pursue my lifelong passion of helping people by becoming one of the first psychiatrists in Cambodia,” said Dr. Sotheara Chhim. “I’m honored to receive the 2017 Dr. Guislain Award and look forward to expanding my work and bringing even more awareness of mental health issues in communities throughout Cambodia.”
The Dr. Guislain Award program is a joint project of the Dr. Guislain Museum and Janssen Research & Development, LLC. The winner receives a $50,000 prize that must be used toward further work to reduce societal stigma about mental health. The Award is given to an individual(s), organization or project that has made an exceptional contribution to mental healthcare in the broadest sense on a cultural and/or social level; has provided a genuine contribution to decreasing stigma around mental health conditions; has promoted attention for mental health care; and has done all this with passion, creativity and innovation.