More than 26 years of war and the tsunami of 2004 has made many children orphans, many women widows, and left many homes with single parents. Like many other Asian societies, open discussion or admission of mental illness is often considered taboo in Sri Lanka. For patients with acute psychiatric problems, temporary hospitalization and intensive rehabilitation in an inpatient setting can be an important first step to resuming a normal daily routine and being incorporated back into the family. The overarching goal with every mental health effort is to help those struggling with mental illness or disability to learn to live independently. Getting patients access to the latest medications with the least amount of side effects is also key.
As such, IMHO has supported 2 in-patient psychiatric units in Sri Lanka, one in Kalmunai and one in Vavuniya. The Kalmunai unit, operated by the Kalmunai Mental Health Association (KAMHA), was co-funded by the World Health Organization (WHO) following the tsunami disaster. The Vavuniya psychiatric unit was opened in 2009 and has played a critical role in responding to the needs of the IDPs who arrived in large numbers in the nearby IDP camps.
IMHO has also supported in-patient units in Batticaloa and helped to improve the quality of life for patients there. Structural improvements and renovations in Jaffna and Batticaloa have also been made possible by IMHO’s support. Other support has benefited a rehabilitation unit for chronically mentally ill patients and a care center for women struggling with mental disabilities.
Patients requiring transport for doctor visits or hospitalization have benefitted from IMHO’s efforts to provide transportation for them and their family members. Rapid transport for patients requiring immediate hospitalization has also been arranged through IMHO’s efforts.
Looking holistically at the issues that affect those with mental illnesses or disabilities, IMHO has supported micro-finance/livelihoods development efforts, and helped to provide counseling services to families caring for mentally ill family members. Efforts have also been made to support rehabilitation programs for mentally ill patients, especially in Kalmunai. Again, IMHO has consistently provided support for medications for patients who cannot afford them.
As part of an ongoing commitment to serving those wherever there is need, IMHO has also supported efforts outside Sri Lanka, including support for a cognitive, speech and physical health program for disabled children through the Pennsylvania (USA)-based Keystone Extreme Inc.
Photo Gallery: Vavuniya Pyschiatric Facility
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Photo Gallery: Kalmunai Mental Health Unit
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