If you’re a psychology student or graduate looking for more experience working in the mental health sector and are keen to immerse yourself in a totally different culture, then this is the placement for you. Run in partnership with Samutthana, the King’s College London Resource Centre for Trauma, Displacement and Mental Health in Sri Lanka, this placement involves a high degree of hands-on work as well as field trips and psychology-focused workshops.
This placement starts off with a full week of training to make sure you're ready to hit the ground running at your projects. From week two you'll be splitting your time between eight different projects designed to give you a well-rounded experience. From clinical to the classroom, this placement is all about showcasing your skills in a variety of settings with service users from all backgrounds and age ranges.
One day a week is spent in a clinical environment at a psychiatric hospital and a rehabilitation centre or in the community, but there is no shadowing here. You're the star of the show and will need to get innovative and resourceful to come up with creative ideas to stimulate service users. This work is heavy and intense, so getting to experience the other projects gives you the chance to apply your knowledge in a less traditional way. Think educational psychology, applied psychology, developmental psychology. It's time to put all those lectures into action!
Throughout the working week you and your fellow teammates will be living in the home of a Sri Lankan family where you can really get stuck into local life. What about the weekend? Glad you asked!
Your first weekend in Sri Lanka will be spent in the jungle jumping off cliffs, rafting through whitewater and getting to know the rest of your team. After that your weekends are all yours to travel the length and breadth of this tiny-but-mighty jewel. From sacred temples to remarkably unspoiled beaches, cross country train rides to safari parks where elephants and leopards roam free and play hide-and-seek. There's so much to see and do that you may never want to leave. #workhardplayhard
Sample Mental Health Placement Timetable
This is what you can expect to be doing each week in Sri Lanka. Your weekends are all yours to travel and explore the stunning teardrop island. Elephants, mountains, pristine beaches. You know...paradise?
|Monday||Session Planning||Special Needs Work|
|Tuesday||Psychiatric Unit||Mental Health Care Home|
|Wednesday||Special Needs Work||Children's Development|
|Thursday||Youth Teaching||Youth Teaching|
|Friday||Children's Development||Go Travelling|
Activity Support: These projects take place in a clinical setting or in the community. You’ll be expected to get creative and really think about how best to help individuals who are all at varying stages in their recovery. Focus on a particular skill like improving short-term memory and form an interactive activity around this.
Youth Teaching Projects: You might be teaching English to students at a school or it could be people from the local community, aged 40+, some who come from miles for your lessons. English is a real commodity in Sri Lanka and you have the tools to help provide individuals with better career prospects and increased confidence just by speaking with them!
Children's Development: We partner with a number of children's development centres, primary schools and after school clubs to provide extracurricular English lessons. Our aim is to be role models, but not caregivers to children who are often marginalised by poverty and circumstance. There are also opportunities to coach sports like swimming, football and cricket.
Special Needs Work: Alongside the psychiatric facility, you’ll work in a number of schools and initiatives for those with specific needs. With an average of 26% of inpatients residing in UK psychiatric facilities having overlapping additional needs, like autism or a brain injury, this is most definitely a client group you should become familiar working with.
These projects are challenging, but will put your knowledge of developmental psychology to good use. You can use a combination of physical and mental activities to really unlock the creative potential of these service users.
Field Trips & Psychology-Focused Workshops:
On the Mental Health Placement you will have the opportunity to attend a field trip led by a local mental health professional. This additional experience is designed to give you an insight into global mental health and to expand your understanding of how different cultures approach the treatment of mental illness.
You will also take part in two workshops led by local mental health professionals. Previous workshop topics have included: Psychology Within a Sri Lankan context, Psychological Healing Related to Tsunami and Post-War Reconciliation, Creative Therapy and Meditation and Mindfulness. Our partner, Sri Lankan mental health charity, Samutthana,also run non-compulsory evening workshops for volunteers at an additional cost. We encourage you to take part in as many of these as you like.
Why Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka, otherwise known as the "Pearl of the Indian Ocean," is a teardrop island with a heart of gold. But paradoxically to its paradisiacal appearance and chilled vibe there is turbulence in Sri Lanka's history. Still recovering from a 25-year civil war, and with the wounds from the 2004 tsunami not yet healed, Sri Lanka's population is in need of more psychological support than current resources can provide.
With few psychologists in residence, the primary method of treatment for those with mental health issues is pharmacological. Beds in psychiatric hospitals are scarce and although the community often rallies and aims to provide some respite for the families in need, the lack of formally qualified mental health professionals is apparent.
Our volunteers work at a number of psychiatric facilities and community initiatives to reduce stigma and to bolster current resources. Our teams work with local professionals to provide much needed stimulation and human contact to improve wellbeing and increase self-esteem.