One in ten people suffer from some type of mental illness or trauma in Sri Lanka, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) revealed today.
NIMH Officials said that this startling figure was a result of a study done by the World Health Organization (WHO). The study had found that the causes for mental illness in Sri Lanka were both varied and complex, though most professionals believe that the 30-year conflict and the 2004 tsunami were among the more significant events that had been the causes for mental health issues in the country.
“According to national mental health data, two in every 100 people in Sri Lanka will experience a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. However mental problems can be treated so and that people can recover from them in full and hopefully lead normal lives,” officials said. Nearly 80% of these patients, once treated, will go on to make a full recovery they said, although social stigma was one of the biggest barriers faced by such persons. “The stigma faced by mental patients can make it awfully difficult for them to motivate themselves to get better. Everyone has a role to play to end discrimination against mentally ill people,” they said.
Major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder require medication to restore the imbalance of chemical substances in the brain that cause them, officials said. Treatment for mental health problems in Sri Lanka is increasingly changing and people now have more access to health care facilities. People also have access to medical care as out-patients from their local clinic or hospital, they said.
A new helpline has also been set up for people having mental health problems to be able to ask for help if they it. The number – 1333 – would be a confidential, anonymous counselling service that provides guidance and emotional support to people facing such challenges. For people experiencing dementia or symptoms similar to dementia, their caretakers can call on NIMH's new Dementia Hot Line - 011 314 0844. (Olindhi Jayasundere)