So it’s already been a month since I came back from my placement abroad and oh my god do I miss the heat 🙁 This summer for 5 weeks I had the amazing opportunity to do a Mental Health Placement in Sri Lanka thanks to the SLV Organisation and it was undoubtedly the best 5 weeks of my summer!
From the photos above, you’d think I’d been on holiday and not actually ‘working’ but our normal week would consist of helping run activities for the Special Needs and. teaching Sri Lankan children as well as adults English. We really got a feel for the Sri Lankan lifestyle; living and eating in a Sri Lankan homestay, getting ourselves to our projects using the local transport. We learnt through living at the homestay how food equals love in Asian cultures especially (coming from one myself) as our ‘amma’ (mum) although not speaking a word of English would always gives us the brightest smile and ask about our day. Although we were only at her home for 5 weeks, she truly treated us like her own children and it was definitely hard to say goodbye when the time came. Transport on the other hand is something I don’t think I will miss as although the views on our bus rides were amazing and it was fun to experience being sat in such bustling transportation with Sinhala music blasted on speaker, I feel I am more British and do prefer my peace and quiet!
In terms of mental health, the fact that only 1% of Sri Lanka”s healthcare budget goes towards mental health shows how British views of mental health differ to that of Sri Lanka. Even though people are becoming more accepting that mental health is just as important as physical health, in a country which is deeply religious people would rather go to a monk or shaman to get someone treated instead of a psychiatrist. By the time they do take the patient to a psychiatrist, the disorder would’ve already done a lot of mental damage to the person thus making it harder to treat. Having talked to a Sri Lankan psychiatrist and worked on case studies in a psychiatric ward, I could tell the psychiatrists had a tough job on their hands with over 100 patients coming in a week and only have about 30 minutes to an hour with each patient. We are very fortunate that psychiatrists in the UK have the proper facilities, care and most importantly time to treat their patients. Ending on a positive note though, the volunteering we did with SLV definitely made me feel we are helping locals see that mental health is important and for patients who believe they have been ostracised from society, we are that someone who does care for them.