The status of mental health in Sri Lanka

Everybody is well aware that the current status of mental health in Sri Lanka is quite alarming. But how bad is it exactly?

Current society is very keen on making a change for betterment. Individuals are concerned and motivated to change society’s rigorous old- age beliefs into more flexible and accommodating mind frames. Nevertheless, the area of mental health is still largely ignored among the masses here in Sri Lanka. Because of the complexity of mental health conditions and the stigma associated with them, the need for people to make a change in the area of mental health in Sri Lanka has to be prioritized and the urgency with which this issue needs to be addressed is very important. Considering that the existing mental health act enacted was in the 1800’s, Sri Lanka is yet in the Stone Age in this regard.

One out of every five persons in Sri Lanka is reported to be mentally ill (Mendis, 2010). Despite this, the only option available for a mentally ill individual, in need of government funding, is the National Institute of Mental Health in Angoda. However, due to the lack of mental health facilities and professionals only about 20% receive treatment.

 Research conducted by the World Health Organization also reveal some very startling facts. There are only 3 mental health professionals per 100,000 people in Sri Lanka (including psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors not specialized in psychiatry, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and other health workers). It is apparent that Sri Lanka does not only lack awareness, and Institutions for mental health treatment, but also falls short of capacity building in the field.

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The current situation in Sri Lanka is improving but at a very slow pace. For example, the number of trained psychologists has risen from 18 to 32 psychologists in a span of five years and an increasing number are getting trained in the mental health professions. Societal stigma and labeling is gradually decreasing due to numerous awareness campaigns.

If you or your loved are ever in need of professional psychological help, institutions like the CIRP Life Centre, Sahanaya and Simithrayo are very good options that you should consider.

-Maleeha Saeed

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