This is the time of year when many people make ‘new year resolutions’ to abstain from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
However, without professional help they quickly slip back into their usual pattern of misuse. Together with Sumithrayo, ‘Mel Medura’ reminds the community of its services in time for the year-end to reduce misuse of alcohol and drugs.
The Mel Medura service is free and motivates users to make lifestyle changes as the road to recovery becomes more rewarding than alcohol or drug use. Daycare sessions are also arranged for family members to attend, to minimise their discomfort, assist the user through recovery and help prevent relapse.
If necessary, a letter is first issued to the government hospital requesting the caller to be admitted for detox. It is only after the substance user is professionally detoxed and ready that a ‘key worker’ at Mel Medura begins the process of befriending the user. Consultant Dr. Shamil Wanigaratne, (Consultant, Clinical Psychologist, National Rehabilitation Centre, Abu Dhabi) ensures that the unit is supported with training in state-of-the-art interventions, and supervises the team. “Biological, psychological and social factors of a person’s life need to be studied and assessed to improve diagnosis and treatment. Our emphasis is on respect, focus is on strengths, the importance of personal choice, and self-determination of goals, all of which are crucial for the person struggling with misuse of alcohol,” explained Mel Medura Director Jomo Uduman. “Misuse of alcohol, heroin, tobacco, betel and cannabis lead the list of people seeking help at Mel Medura” he said.
Sumithrayo was founded in 1974 in Sri Lanka by the Late Joan De Mel and the London Samaritans and was the first and only crisis centre in the country at that time, dedicated to suicide prevention and is entirely volunteer driven. It was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1986. The Sumithrayo Drug Demand Reduction Programme (Mel Medura) was set up in 1984 when it was realized that 30 percent of suicides in Sri Lanka are connected to alcohol and drug addiction.
Initially Mel Medura offered rehabilitation support on a residential basis for six weeks. This was discontinued and transformed into a community based rehabilitation centre and is probably the most successful and only unit here to offer such a service and obtain extraordinary results. The initiative was pioneered by Joan De Mel, Nalini Ellawela and Prof. Diyanath Samarasinghe who set up the administration and supervision of the unit in capacities. Dr. Manoj Fernando was subsequently involved in delivering and disseminating the service and its mission to users and the community.
Mel Medura is actively involved in programmes to create awareness in the community, not only about primary prevention of alcohol and drug related problems but also in educating school children on developing coping skills without succumbing to peer pressure. Brochures are circulated to heads of all government and international schools, universities, human resource managers of corporates with requests to disseminate the information to create awareness and educate the public.