Research Intern in Bellevue Hospital

SLVeteran Sinead

Education: Teachers College - Columbia University, USA

SLV.Global Placement: Graduate Mental Health Placement, May 2016. India Program, June 2016

Current Role: 'Working as a Research Intern in Bellevue Hospital's ER through New York University Medical School'

Tell us about your SLV.Global experience: 'My time with SLV was life-changing one to say the least. I was already fascinated by global mental health from my university classes, however being able to see the pragmatic variations of disorders and treatments of another culture directly was invaluable. The post-war outreach field trip to the northern part of Sri Lanka provided valuable insight about how lower resourced communities are able to treat patients just as, if not more, efficiently than treatment in a western setting. Despite seeing patients for five minutes per month instead of for an hour each week, task-shifting allowed trained community workers to watch over patients and inform the psychiatrists about the needs and issues of the patients in the community in between visits. It was useful to see how mental illness is manifested in a such an optimistic culture with fewer words for negative emotions than in English, and how Sri Lankan psychiatrists are able to identify and overcome what western doctors would likely view as a barrier. Beyond the practical applications of SLV, the research experience at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS) in Bangalore, India provided a unique and holistic approach to how mind-body therapies such as yoga and meditation can be used to treat mental illness. The lessons I learned at my workshops at NIMHANS and the School of Ancient Wisdom will remain incomparable resources for my research and clinical work for the rest of my career. Sri Lanka will always remain dear to my heart, not only for my personal connection to the people and country, but for the rare and invaluable professional experience that I could not have received through any other program.'

'Even with all of these invaluable practical and academic experiences, they are nothing compared to the unforgettable warmth I felt from the Sri Lankan culture and particularly from my homestay family. I will never forget any of it and I miss it every day. I miss my homestay father’s cooking and contagious laugh. I miss the daily piano playing and artwork of my homestay brothers when coming home from an exhausting (but rewarding) day of volunteer work. I miss Amma’s hugs and beautiful smile. Living in a different country and culture will always be an adjustment. The showers are cold, the days are hot, and the buses are crowded. Life is not always easy in another country. But that is really the beauty of it. The beauty of appreciating the things that really matter: The excitement of a service user in a special needs placement finally catching a ball; the amazement of the will-power of students attending your English classes in the sweltering summer heat when they have no other classes, while fasting, not able to eat or drink water all day, because they are so determined to learn English; the random stranger in the grocery store who will spend a half-hour trying to help you find a spoon, despite you finding out afterwards that he didn’t even work there- He just wanted to help; and of course, coming home to a family that treats you as one of their own. Coming home to a houseful of individuals, both family and volunteers who have all also had long exhausting days, and appreciating the small things together-still wanting to help each other out (like my roommates helping me practice my GRE vocabulary worlds at 10pm despite us all wanting sleep). This experience was once in a life-time, and I would not have given it up for anything in the world.'