An event held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, celebrated and wrapped up VSO's 15-year commitment and partnership with the Sri Lankan mental health service.
The celebration featured the premiere of a documentary film and publication ('Sharing experience and good practice in mental health') that highlight the impact and personal experiences of patients, mental health professionals, local partners and volunteers who have been involved in VSO's mental health programme over the years.
"VSO is proud of the impact we've had in the mental health care service in Sri Lanka, which is due in large part to our close partnership with the Ministry of Health as well as the commitment of our local partners and mental health service users throughout the country and extra funding from our donors. We all worked together in developing a rights-based mental health service in the country," said Chandima Kulathunge, VSO's mental health programme manager.
VSO's involvement in the Sri Lankan mental health sector goes back over 15 years. For the past five years VSO, its volunteers and its local partners have been implementing a European Union-funded mental health project called: Supporting and Developing Rights Based Mental Health Services in Sri Lanka.
Working through over 65 skilled, international volunteers, contributing tens of thousands of volunteer hours, VSO's mental health programme focused on sharing skills with 10 local partners across the country (both government and non-government organisations) in a wide range of disciplines including psychiatric nursing, occupational therapy, social work, training and education, advocacy, organisational development and media relations.
"VSO and its volunteers have been instrumental in the dramatic improvement of the mental health service over the past 10 years," said Dr. Jayan Mendis, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and long-time VSO partner. "Since I took over leadership of NIMH, we've had VSO volunteers working in all areas of the institute, which has resulted in great improvements to our employee's knowledge, and ultimately, to the patient care we deliver."
Some of the concrete results include:
Approximately 40 rehabilitation centres created with VSO volunteer support across the country over the past 15 years.
46,762 people have attended workshops/trainings/awareness raising activities carried out by VSO volunteers during the EU project targeted at professionals directly involved with service users to improve the quality of care on various fronts.
395,801 people have attended workshops/trainings/awareness raising activities carried out by VSO volunteers during the EU project targeted at professionals working in non-mental health government organisations, service users, carers and family members of service users, and members of the general public, on various mental health issues.
Over 2.5 million Sri Lankans reached through VSO-supported media promotion and awareness activities.
As VSO's mental health programme comes to completion in March 2013, all of Sri Lanka's mental health stakeholders are optimistic that the improvements made to date will continue going forward. K.M.D Ratnayake, Development Assistant for Mental Health at Badulla General Hospital, says "Whenever you speak about mental health in Sri Lanka, you will always have to speak about VSO."