So, after my first day at work last Thursday, I decided it was high time to take a break from the crazy rat race and go on a bit of road trip this week through Sri Lanka. Trina, myself and two other volunteers are currently in the middle of a trip right across the country visiting various mental health facilities meeting the employees, volunteers and patients that make up these institutions.
After three days and visits to facilities in Kornegula (sp?), Kandy and Badulla, this is the longest amount of time I’ve ever spent in hospitals. What I’ve learned so far has been invaluable as not only am I learning about how things work in Sri Lankan hospitals, but I’m also learning about hospitals in general. I’m starting out with a blank slate and I’m soaking things up like a sponge. I’ve talked to doctors, directors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, volunteers, support staff, and most importantly patients. What I’ve seen has both inspired and depressed me at the same time.
What I’ve learned is that there is still much work to do right across the country in improving care for people living with a mental illness. While some of the issues are systemic and political, many others deal with the simplest of things like not having a enough tables or chairs to have group activities or having old, useless equipment take up valuable space because the hospital can’t find anyone to come pick it up and dispose of it.
What I’ve also experienced is that almost everyone I’ve talked to has the very best intentions about improving the care for those people with a mental illness in Sri Lanka. But like most things in life, change is slow.
Improvements are being made and success stories do exist. I plan to champion these stories in the work I’m doing here and hold them up as the model for what mental health care in Sri Lanka can be. And if enough of these success stories are told and then retold, eventually (long after I’m gone), let’s hope these stories become the rule instead of the exception.
Sorry for the serious post. I promise more fart jokes next time.
P.S. The area we’re travelling in is awesome. Great break from the crazy, noisy Colombo. We’re in the hill country, which is known as the most beautiful area of Sri Lanka rivaled only by the beaches.