health - exploring similar minds
health problems affect people of all ages and nationalities. Dealing
with mental health problems is as important as dealing with any
physical health problem.
Kneebone - an Australian occupational therapist working at Sahanaya,
has been here for one year. Sophie who is training Sahanaya staff
points out the common and different issues with regard to mental
health in Australia and in Sri Lanka.
of the things that both countries have in common is that there is not
enough money and staff in dealing with this problem; this is common
even in Australia and in Sri Lanka despite the fact that in Australia
there is more infrastructure to deliver services which include leisure
and vocational assistance programmes for patients.
Kneebone stated that there would always be a never-ending need for
resources and money to deal with this problem in any country.
are also approximately 100 times more trained staff in Australia than
there are here taking into account that both countries have almost the
same population figures.
similarity is that both countries have some sort of a stigma attached
to mental health problems where there is discrimination of people with
mental health issues and a lack of willingness to acknowledge and
discuss mental health problems.
Sri Lanka having less resources and money being put into the issue of
mental health problems there are some positive aspects that have come
out of this where this scarcity forces creativity - to harness
resources in order to deliver the services needed for these
patients," Kneebone explained.
spoke of some of the plus points she has noticed in Sri Lanka as
compared to Australia when it comes to dealing with mental health
problems. One is that there are more volunteers here than over there.
In Australia most people who work with such patients are paid for
their services whereas here she finds that there are a lot more people
offering voluntary services especially at Sahanaya.
positive effort by Sri Lankans is that they are learning ways to
express and teach about mental health problems to the public without
any formal training being given to them," said Kneebone
families are acknowledged and used as partners in care, in the absence
of trained mental health workers. Here there is also a lot of close
family support which is mainly due to the Sri Lankan culture, but it
also does have its drawbacks where the family at times does not bring
the person in at an early stage to be treated properly.
Australia there are people with mental health problems living alone.
This is because it is expected of them and also at times their
families don't want to have them. There is the issue of being
independent but there are
instances when these people can't cope for themselves.
Kneebone pointed out that after a person is treated for a mental
health problem here they usually find it hard to get employment or
achieve a goal they have, such as making friends or working, but in
Australia people who have been treated for mental health problems to
some extent are able to find employment and there are organisations
which help these people achieve their goals.
problem is present in both countries but at different levels.
of the major mental problems common to both countries are depression,
anxiety disorders and schizophrenia, which can affect a person at any
age and of any sex.
is also noted that about 1% of Sri Lankans suffer from major mental
disorder and about 12.5% suffer from minor mental disorders. Some of
the signs to look for in a person who may be mentally unwell are a
change in behaviour, an inability to cope with day-to-day activities,
excessive anxiety, prolonged apathy and depression, or even an
abnormal degree of happiness.
signs are undue fear and suspicion, changes in sleeping and eating
patterns, thinking and talking about suicide, alcohol and drug abuse.
Kneebone points out that having a natural instinct that something is
wrong with someone is another indication that there is a problem and
the person should be talked to or taken for counselling or treatment.
earlier a person comes in for treatment the better the prognosis.
Talking about the problem will also help as some persons may only need
counselling while some rehabilitation and others may need
rehabilitation and even special treatment.
the public will also help people in dealing with the issue of mental
illhealth and they in turn will be able to help someone with a mental
problem or even a family dealing with a member suffering from a mental
someone at the early stages to be treated helps a lot as they can be
treated with their family with them for support but if the patient is
brought in much later when their situation is worse and they have to
be hospitalised this would make the healing process mush harder. One
of the problems is that the patient is brought in when the situation
is bad and not at the early stages when they should have been, where
they have to be hospitalised. Individual attention cannot be given at
this stage and the hospital atmosphere doesn't always help in the
healing process stated Kneebone.