Mental health volunteer work in Sri Lanka

Mental health volunteer work in Sri Lanka

By Jessie Newsome

Jessie Newsome is completing the BA in Applied Psychology, and is in her second year. Jessie is committed to highlighting the need for mental health services, and this summer she will travel to Sri Lanka to volunteer in an organisation that provides mental health services. Jessie is fund raising for essential travel costs in order to take up the voluntary position, and more detail is here.


Mental health volunteer work in Sri Lanka

As a second year of applied psychology, I have always been extremely passionate about positive mental health and the improvement of mental health services. So in 2015 I decided to apply to volunteer with UK based organisation SLV; SLV is a voluntary organisation established in 2010, dedicated to helping local communities in countries such as Sri Lanka, Bali and India. Much to my delight (and my parent’s slight dismay), I was invited to join SLV in Sri Lanka for five weeks this summer.

SLV was set up by Lucy Nightingale, a psychology graduate from the University of Manchester and Yasintha Rathnayake, a youth worker in Sri Lanka. The organisation runs projects in conjunction with local youth workers to help the community, while giving psychology students and graduates the opportunity to gain valuable experience in a new cultural context.

The placement is specifically for psychology students and graduates and I will be staying in the home of a Sri Lankan family with the other volunteers for the duration of my work. During my placement, I’ll be working with individuals who experience mental health issues, as well as working with individuals with special needs, and teaching English to children and young people on vocational courses.

I am elated to have been given the opportunity to volunteer with such a well-respected organisation and I believe every individual deserves to have the best possible health care, particularly when it comes to mental health. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to gain hands on experience working with individuals who have a variety of different needs. I feel strongly about this work as the resources available to individuals in Sri Lanka who require additional support, are not as extensive as the supports available to us in developed countries.

I feel that although the supports available to us here in Ireland are far from adequate in meeting the needs of those suffering mental health issues, we sometimes take the services we have for granted. It’s important to remember that many other countries have vastly underdeveloped mental health services and SLV plays an important role in helping to address this issue in Sri Lanka.

In the future I would love to have a career working with children and adolescents in a mental health setting, so this experience is extremely important to me. I am currently fundraising to cover the costs of my placement fees only and am working hard to juggle college and work in order to cover the costs of everything else by myself (this has inevitably led to some tears and tantrums!). The supplementary costs I am working to cover include flights, insurance and the various vaccinations required when working in a healthcare setting abroad. I would be extremely grateful for any donations or other supports that anyone may be able contribute to help me cover the costs of the trip. You can access my Fund MyTravel account at this link

I am looking forward to representing School of Applied Psychology and University College Cork on my placement, and I can’t wait to share my experiences when I’m back! This is a fantastic opportunity for any psychology students with similar interests, and I would encourage any student with a passion for mental health to research SLV’s volunteering opportunities and consider applying for their placements; or simply wait for me to do the trial run! If you would like to find out more about SLV, you can visit their website