Students venture overseas for mental health placement

Students Katherine Stroud, Lauren Lovejoy, Martha Perkins and Rachel Wilson from the Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour have gained crucial work experience by travelling to the Island of Sri Lanka to participate in a mental health placement.

For a number of weeks last year they shared their skills at psychiatric hospitals and ran therapeutic activity sessions at centres for individuals with various specific needs. This placement was organised by SLV, a volunteer organisation founded in 2010.

Mental health care in Sri Lanka is in its infancy. The stigma for those with mental health issues is still widespread, and with just one Psychiatrist for every 500,000 people, there is still a long way to go. 

In the past 5 years, over 1000 psychology students have joined SLV to dedicate their time to supporting people with mental health issues in Sri Lanka to reduce the care deficit by boosting the existing resources in place, and offering stimulating therapeutic activity sessions for service users during all stages of their recovery.

The students were trained and supported by Sri Lankan mental health professionals to help equip them with the skills to work sensitively within the Sri Lankan culture, and in thoroughly under-resourced facilities and challenging environments.

Katherine said: "Being a SLV volunteer was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I gained an immense amount of confidence and an eye opening first person account of mental health care in Sri Lanka. I'm so happy that I was able to live with a local family and fully integrate with their life and culture.”

Rachel said: "My time in Sri- Lanka with SLV was one I will certainly never forget. Not only did I gain invaluable experience in a clinical psychology setting that will really enhance my CV, but I also had the opportunity to embrace a new culture, explore a beautiful country and make incredible friends."

Lauren said: "Just like many Psychology graduates hoping to explore a career in the field, I found it hard to gain experience in the mental health sector in the UK, and provide evidence of a ‘unique selling point’ in the competitive jobs market. I chose to apply for a placement with SLV because it is an ethical organisation which employs Sri Lankan workers, involves the Sri Lankan community, and has seen real progress in attitudes towards mental health and disability since its involvement. It is a fantastic opportunity to challenge yourself, gain new skills, meet like-minded people, and provide that all important USP to potential employers. It is such a great way to spend a summer within or after your studies, I only wish I’d done it sooner!”

Martha said: “Working with SLV was an incredible experience; I learnt so much about working in mental health and special needs within an entirely different culture, as well as adapting to challenging situations quickly and effectively with great support from the SLV staff and coordinators."