Sri Lanka Mental Health Placement 2018

Sophie Tyerman Start Date: Oct 8, 2017 - End Date: Jul 27, 2018
  • Sri Lanka

My Travel Story

by: Sophie Tyerman Start Date: Oct 8, 2017 - End Date: Jul 27, 2018
On 23rd July 2018 I will be extremely excitedly, yet nervously, boarding a plane to Sri Lanka to undertake a 5 week voluntary mental health placement with SLV. SLV is a UK based voluntary organisation that runs projects to help the local community, whilst simultaneously allowing volunteers to gain invaluable work experience in the mental-health sector.

I am a second year BSc (Hons) Psychology student and my ultimate career ambition is to become a Registered Clinical Psychologist. I believe the experience in Sri Lanka would be incredibly beneficial in helping me to achieve this. Competition nationally for postgraduate training in Clinical Psychology is fierce and it is important therefore to develop skills and experience with a range of client groups in addition to academic study. My hope is that this experience will be one way to really help me to stand out from the crowd.

Once in Sri Lanka, I will be working with a range of people with mental health issues at varying stages of their recovery. Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka there are few practicing psychologists and beds in psychiatric hospitals, so the primary method of treatment is pharmacological. Working as an Activity Support Worker, myself along with other volunteers, will work as a team to engage individuals in mentally stimulating activities. These activities could range from sporting activities such as cricket or dance, to creative activities such as making dream catchers. Whatever the activity, the overall aim is to increase service users’ self-confidence and wellbeing in a stimulating environment.

In addition, I will also be teaching English to a wide variety of people. This could include students in a school, members of the local community or even individuals who’ve travelled for miles just for our lessons. Learning English hugely enhances career prospects for these individuals as well as improving their confidence.

Furthermore, I will also be working with individuals with special needs, in particular those with autism or brain injuries. My previous experience of working with the charity KIDS, will be greatly beneficial in helping me to come up with a range of physical and mental activities and provide a creative, stimulating environment for these individuals. Another project I will be working on, will be teaching English to children through extracurricular English lessons. SLV has a partnership with multiple primary schools, children’s development centres and after school clubs, where volunteers like myself will be role models to the children, who are often from marginalised backgrounds.  

Finally, I will have the opportunity to take part in a field visit and workshops run by Samutthana, the King’s College London Centre for Trauma, Displacement and Mental Health. During the field visit, I will gain a deeper understanding of how mental health treatment works in a completely different culture, through shadowing and working with a mental health professional. As part of the field visit, I may be working in an addiction centre, hospital or in the community, improving my understanding of mental health globally and the approaches different cultures take in treatment of mental health. Through the workshops, I will also learn more about mental health in Sri Lanka, with previous themes including ‘Trauma from a Sri Lankan Perspective’ and ‘PTSD and the Future of Sri Lanka.’ After the boxing day tsunami hitting Sri Lanka in 2004 and years of civil conflict, it will be incredibly moving yet interesting from a psychology student’s perspective to be able to aid in treatment of the fallout from these disasters.

I will be living alongside other volunteers with a local Sri Lankan family for the duration of my placement, so I will be completely immersed in the culture from the moment I step off the plane. I am incredibly excited to learn about the Sri Lankan customs, try on a beautiful traditional Sari and of course learn to cook and eat traditional Sri Lankan curry (which I will attempt to recreate when I return home).

Not only will this placement be incredibly rewarding and beneficial for my future career, but it will also immensely improve my self-confidence. This time last year I wouldn’t have even considered applying for the placement opportunity, due to my own struggles with anxiety over the last three years. However, I am now more determined than ever to complete this challenge I have set, whilst working on my own mental health in the process. Thank you for taking the time to read about my placement. I hugely appreciate any contribution and am incredibly thankful in advance for your generosity and support.
  • Sri Lanka