Why Cambodians never get depressed


This extraordinary story on a blog from American National Public Radio called Goats and Soda.

Yes, of course Cambodians get depressed. But they don’t have a word for it. Instead they have an expression: thelea tdeuk ceut, “the water in my heart has fallen.”

When the water in your heart has fallen, you not only have a description (depression), you have an explanation (water in the heart). It makes a difference in how you view what’s happening.

Therefore it makes a difference how the condition should be treated. For us, depression is a mental condition, for Cambodians its a physical one (water in the heart).  The article points out that American-style mental health clinics aren’t necessarily the right way to go in Cambodia:

Simply setting up mental health clinics identical to the ones we have here in the U.S. isn’t necessarily going to help anyone, says Dr. Devon Hinton, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, who works with Southeast Asian populations in the U.S. and abroad.

Now we get on to a phrase I’ve heard used about ghosts – they spin. A newly-dead ghost “whirls around,” and only when it stops whirling can it leave the physical world and go to the world of the dead as a “praet” – a ghost which has not done this is a “kmouch,” and stays here with humans as a haunting ghost. But why do ghosts spin and whirl?

Take for instance khyal attacks, or “wind attacks.” Cambodians who suffer from anxiety disorders often experience the quick onset of heart palpitations, blurry vision and shortness of breath. Like panic attacks, khyal attacks can happen without warning.

In other words, the newly-dead soul is experiencing a panic attack.

There’s much more. Recommended reading.