WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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PERSPECTIVE
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 18-21

Decentralizing provision of mental health care in Sri Lanka


1 General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, Kandawala, Ratmalana, Colombo, Sri Lanka
2 World Health Organization Country Office for Sri Lanka, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka
3 Directorate of Mental Health, Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Correspondence Address:
Thirupathy Suveendran
World Health Organization Country Office for Sri Lanka, Colombo
Sri Lanka
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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.206159

PMID: 28597854

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In the past, mental health services in Sri Lanka were limited to tertiary-care institutions, resulting in a large treatment gap. Starting in 2000, significant efforts have been made to reconfigure service provision and to integrate mental health services with primary health care. This approach was supported by significant political commitment to establishing island-wide decentralized mental health care in the wake of the 2004 tsunami. Various initiatives were consolidated in The mental health policy of Sri Lanka 2005–2015, which called for implementation of a comprehensive community-based, decentralized service structure. The main objectives of the policy were to provide mental health services of good quality at primary, secondary and tertiary levels; to ensure the active involvement of communities, families and service users; to make mental health services culturally appropriate and evidence based; and to protect the human rights and dignity of all people with mental health disorders. Significant improvements have been made and new cadres of mental health workers have been introduced. Trained medical officers (mental health) now provide outpatient care, domiciliary care, mental health promotion in schools, and community mental health education. Community psychiatric nurses have also been trained and deployed to supervise treatment adherence in the home and provide mental health education to patients, their family members and the wider community. A total of 4367 mental health volunteers are supporting care and raising mental health literacy in the community. Despite these important achievements, more improvements are needed to provide more timely intervention, combat myths and stigma, and further decentralize care provision. These, and other challenges, will be targeted in the new mental health policy for 2017–2026.


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