IAC Member Associations & Organizations
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IAC Education Institute Members
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IAC Member Centres/Group Practices
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Additional Centres/Group Practices
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)
Mental Health Psychosocial Support Working Group Myanmar (MHPSS)
After more than 50 years of international isolation, the recent history of psychology and counselling in Myanmar has been a tragic one. The country’s isolation had caused huge damage to higher education in Myanmar. The field of psychology suffered the most as it was relegated to a very low status. This might be because the government considered it as a threat to their authority. Thus, many citizens are not confident with the quality and integrity of the psychology field in Myanmar (Hwan, 2019). In short, the long period of isolation had made a huge impact on the profession of psychology, and the consequences are still very much evident today. Most of the documented psychosocial and psychotherapeutic interventions have been provided by various non-governmental and community-based organizations, often by lay providers or community health workers (Risso-Gill et al. 2014).
There is no counselling association available in Myanmar, and the government also does not provide insurance benefits for those in need of mental health counselling services either.
Those counselling services that exist are mostly accessible in Yangon, the main city of Myanmar. The government focuses more on their people’s physical health, thus there is no information about mental health or counselling services on their government website. However, people can get the services of counselling from:
- Community & faith-based counselling centres
- Private practices
- Non-profit & non-governmental organizations
Mental health disciplines have not developed sufficiently to provide solutions to the current problems in Myanmar. The main reason causing this problem is the lack of adequately qualified and well-trained human services workers. This is because the Myanmar academy was confined away from the new and updated information in the developed world by the government during the decades of isolation (Hwan, 2019).
The challenges can be concluded as below:
- Staff are not adequately trained and there is little infrastructure to facilitate providing counselling services, particularly in rural areas.
- There is a severe shortage of healthcare workers in Myanmar. In 2014, there were a total of 75,076 health workers, including 18,871 medical practitioners, 817 dentists, 28,568 nurses, and 12,042 midwives for a population of 51,486,253 (Myanmar Census, 2014). There are 1.46 health workers – doctors, nurses, and midwives per 1,000 people, far below the World Health Organization minimum recommended threshold of 2.3 health workers per 1,000 people (Zaw, 2016).
- Awareness-raising on mental health within communities, access to consultations and counselling, and referrals to secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities are needed to improve diagnosis and treatment. A policy and planning shift informed by evidence that shows, for example, prevalence, geographical spread, and the effectiveness of treatment and prevention methods in the country, is desperately needed.
For a deeper exploration of the counselling profession in the country, interested readers are recommended to read the following journal & website articles:
- HelpAge International Myanmar. (2019). Improving basic mental health services in Myanmar’s primary healthcare system.
- Hman, N.W. (2019, November). Myanmar mental health services in dire need of improvement. Myanmar Times.
- Latt, N.N.., Cho, S. M., Htun, Nang, M.M., Saw, Y., Myint, M., Aoki, F., Reyer, J., Yamamoto, E., Yoshida, Y., & Hamajima, N. (2016). Healthcare in Myanmar. Nagoya Journal of Medical Science, 78. 123-134.
- Nguyen, A. J., Lee, C., Schojan, M., & Bolton, P. (2018). Mental health interventions in Myanmar: a review of the academic and gray literature. Global Mental Health, 5,e8. https://doi.org/10.1017/gmh.2017.30
- Republic of the Union of Myanmar (2014). The 2014 Myanmar population and housing census: The union report: Occupation and industry. Census report volume 2-B.
- Risso-Gill, I, McKee, M., Coker, R., Piot, P., Legido-Quigley, H. (2014). Health system strengthening in Myanmar during political reforms: perspectives from international agencies. Health Policy and Planning, 29(4). 466–474.
- Starr. M. (2018). Psychologist’s guide to good mental health in modern Myanmar. The Irrawady.
- Thi, M.K. (2016, September). YMCA to launch free counselling service. Myanmar Times.
- Thin Zaw, P.P. (2016, January). Health ministry burdened by skills crisis. Myanmar Times.
- World Health Organization, & Ministry of Health Union of Myanmar. (2006). WHO-AIMS report on mental health systems in Myanmar.