Supporting better mental health in Athidiya

April 07, 2015
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In the last few months we have made more progress on supporting better mental health in the area. As many supporters will know, Sister Concepta has been supporting people with counselling in the area for a long time but the huge need in the area and the fact that she has other responsibilities such as teaching has meant that there is always a high demand for her services and never enough time.

This year, with the recruitment of further teaching staff, Sister Concepta is now devoting herself to counselling full-time. This involves counselling children who access the centre as well as mothers who have requested support. She also spends time on outreach getting to the heart of people’s issues by visiting them in their home.

All are aware however, that one person in such a high need area will never be sufficient and we have for a while been looking at ways of reaching more people in need of support with their mental health.

We have been extremely fortunate to have had input in the last month from two Psychologists from UK, Lorna and Dorian, who are currently working for Samutthana, a charity that supports capacity building in mental health services in Sri Lanka. Lorna and Dorian have a wealth of experience, having set up mental health services in the UK, and they have quickly been able to see the need in the area and look at sustainable solutions.

With this in mind, they are currently setting up ‘peer support groups’ for men and women in Athidiya. The plan is for these groups to support each other on a regular basis and will be coordinated through local facilitators, a mixture of existing staff at the centre and local people. We had our first training session for our facilitators a couple of weeks ago and these will continue after the Sinhala/Tamil New Year holiday. The plan is for the groups to start in June with Lorna and Dorian assisting at the first few so that the facilitators feel confident at leading the groups in the future. Sister Concepta will also be involved long-term in an advisory capacity.

We all have high hopes for this new initiative which we hope will be the start of better support for mental health in Athidiya. Thanks to Lorna and Dorian for your support. Thanks too to all at Samutthana especially Nivendra who has been a great asset with his translation skills and knowledge of mental health in the Sri Lankan context. You can find out more about Samutthana on their website:

http://www.samutthana.org.lk/

Katherine, April 2015

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