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Monash psychology student goes to Sri Lanka for hands-on experience in the mental health sector

9 November 2017

Earlier this year Elizabeth Matthews, a Monash psychology student, travelled to Sri Lanka on an SLV.Global mental health placement. After a full week of training as an Activity Support Worker, she helped run therapeutic activities at inpatient psychiatric facilities and residential centres.

With fewer than 25 psychologists in Sri Lanka, and only one percent of the annual health budget allocated to mental health services, there’s a strong bias towards pharmacological treatment, often bypassing a more humanistic approach to mental health. Elizabeth and her fellow teammates provided much needed stimulation and human contact to individuals seeking assistance.

During the work week, Elizabeth lived with a Sri Lankan family. This immersive experience gave her insight into the local culture and daily life. She took part in everything from traditional ceremonies to eating rice and curry with her hands! On weekends, she ventured out to explore the island’s sacred temples, safari parks with elephants and leopards, and unspoiled white sand beaches.

“The opportunity to provide mental health services in a culturally diverse setting has provided me with invaluable skills which I can take with me into my future career,” says Elizabeth. “I feel privileged to have been so warmly accepted into my Sri Lankan community and shown so many amazing local experiences, as well as making lifelong friendships.”

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