Volunteering to provide mental health support in Sri Lanka

Thursday 14 September 2017

As the Clinical Trials Coordinator for Neurosciences at Mater Research Genevieve Whybird is no stranger to supporting the delivery of exceptional, evidence-based healthcare, but later this month, Genevieve will be taking on a whole new aspect of healthcare when she volunteers as a mental health support worker in Sri Lanka.

With a background in psychology, Genevieve has always wanted to undertake a volunteer program to enable her to use the skills she gained during her degree.

“I have a particular interest in helping those with mental health issues, developmental disorders and neurological disorders,” Genevieve said.

“I chose Sri Lanka because there is a need for mental health support in that country with few psychologists in residence so the primary method of treatment for those with mental health issues is pharmacological.”

While on her six week volunteer program, Genevieve will be working on projects including child care, youth teaching, special needs projects and mental health projects.

“I will work at a number of psychiatric facilities and community initiatives to reduce stigma and to bolster current resources.  I will be working with local professionals to provide much-needed stimulation and human contact to improve wellbeing and increase self-esteem,” Genevieve said.

“My role will involve working with children to deliver fun, English-based activity sessions and with youths to practise their English skills.  I’ll also be running creative activities with special needs projects and mental health placements including arts and crafts, music, dance and games to help develop cognitive functions, motor and language skills and to provide stimulation.”

Although Genevieve does not yet know exactly where she will be based during her stay, she is likely to be staying with a local family within three to four hours of the capital, Colombo, and travelling and working at different locations across the region.

“I hope to gain valuable, practical experience in the mental health sector whilst being immersed in a unique and exciting culture.  I also hope to help those who are less fortunate by implementing all the skills I acquired from the education I was lucky to receive,” Genevieve said.

“I think my work in Sri Lanka is likely to have an impact on my work at Mater Research, helping me to be more culturally aware and more grateful for the amazing resources we have in our country.”

While Genevieve will be working hard during the week, she will be free on the weekends to undertake some travelling.

“I don’t have any concrete plans as yet, but I hope to visit the many beautiful beaches, tea plantations, temples, ancient cultural sites and the elephant orphanage.”

The program Genevieve is undertaking is run in partnership with the King’s College London Resource Centre for Trauma, Displacement and Mental Health in Sri Lanka.