National Institute of Mental Health

Angoda, Sri Lanka

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To read about past news and views about NIMH, check out our newsletter - Waves (pdf file).



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NIMH celebrates International Women's Day

Women’s issues and interests took centre stage at Halfway Home Mulleriyawa (HHM) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) on March 8 as part of International Women’s Day celebrations in Sri Lanka.

As part NIMH’s celebrations a new gender-based violence unit was officially opened by Dr. Firdosi Rustom Mehta, WHO Representative to Sri Lanka, and Dr. Jayan Mendis, Director of NIMH.

“We are very excited to be opening a gender-based violence unit as part of our institute,” said Dr. Mendis. “We know gender-based violence is an issue in our community and this unit is designed to combat this problem. Not only will this unit act as a resource centre for mental health professionals, it will also be a place where members of the community can come for any help if they need it.”

Dr. Mehta stated that he was very excited to see this new development and is anxious to see the unit in action.

“Every time I visit NIMH there is something new happening, which is a testament to the director, its employees and partner organizations like VSO and Basic Needs,” said Dr. Mehta. “It’s my hope that this new unit will work with other organizations, like the police and the courts, to ensure women facing domestic abuse get the help they need.”

At Halfway Home Mulleriyawa, over 40 of the female residents were treated to an information session on hair, skin and other beauty products.

An interactive session led by Shereen Fernando, Director for Janet beauty products, showed the ladies various grooming techniques and used many of the ladies as models. The ladies also received various sample products to use in their day-to-day routine.

“I was excited to see how interested and engaged the ladies were,” said Shereen after the session and the makeovers were complete. “I think many of them could have a future career in the beauty field. They are very talented and are quick learners.”

 

Halfway Home Mulleriyawa celebrates its volunteers with netball tournament

Residents, employees and volunteers gathered together at Halfway Home Mulleriyawa on February 13, 2012, for a friendly netball tournament to celebrate the work of volunteers at the home.

Six teams and close to 50 people took part in the tournament, which was a true display of fun, skill and sportsmanship.

NIMH's Director, Dr. Jayan Mendis, presented the plaque to the winning side from Sahanaya, Sri Lanka's National Council of Mental Health, and personally thanked all the volunteers who help out weekly at the home to improve the services offered to the residents.

"We are extremely grateful for the support we receive from volunteers. They greatly add to the services we provide and they truly touch the lives of all of our residents," said Dr. Mendis. "I am happy to recognize their efforts today with this tournament."

The hope is that this tournament becomes an annual event and grows to include more teams from the mental health service sector in Sri Lanka.

Special thanks is owed to the European Union-funded mental health project that is supported by Volunteer Services Overseas (VSO), Bata, Janaka Botejue, Errol Weerasinghe and Hiranthi Perera for providing discounts and financial assistance to purchase the residents' uniforms and prizes.

 

Innovative project supports local women from Halfway Home Mulleriyawa

An exciting new partnership between Halfway Home Mulleriyawa and Amba Tea Estate is working to improve the lives and skills of 600 women living at Halfway Home Mulleriyawa.

 

Many of the women residing at the home are capable of living productive lives in the community given the right opportunities and resources. Integrating these women back into the community is often hampered by the fact that they have lost contact with family and friends, and therefore need help and assistance to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into society.

 

This new project aims to improve the livelihood of the women through the sale of hand-made, multi-coloured, leaf shaped bags to Amba Estate as packaging for their finest organic hand-rolled tea. The leaf bags are hand-made by residents of the Halfway Home - generating an income stream for the residents and providing an opportunity for work and training.  

 

Through a one-day sale at Barefoot Café and filling a few orders from the UK, the project has already earned tens of thousands of rupees for the women with the potential for more orders being placed in the very near future - both inside and outside Sri Lanka. 

 

“There is great potential for this project to provide real, lasting income for the ladies living at Mulleriyawa,” said Dr. Jayan Mendis, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Sri Lanka. “By learning how to make these beautiful tea bags, they’ve already learned an extremely valuable skill that will help them in the years to come.”  

The trip

To get a better understanding of what was being put in their tea bags and by whom, ladies from Mulleriyawa recently visited Amba Tea Estate near Bandarawela to meet and network with the tea workers and local community.  

During the three-day trip (a first for many of the participants), the ladies were able to see how the tea was made, make new friends and business contacts, and help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness by showing that people with mental illness are contributing to their communities.

“I was very nervous and frightened before the ladies from Mulleriyawa arrived. We weren’t sure if they’d be dangerous or violent,” said Sisilahamy, one of the tea estate employees. “But as soon as they arrived, we could see that they were very gentle and kind. There was nothing to be afraid of and now we are friends, even though it has been a very short time.” 

Roshini, a school teacher in the community who hosted people in her home during the visit and teaches English on the tea estate, said she was excited to meet the ladies because she knows how tough it can be to have a mental illness. 

“My husband’s cousin had a mental illness and we helped care for him. At that time, I realized that a mental illness can be treated just like any other illness and many times cured,” said Roshini. “This visit from the ladies has reaffirmed my belief that people with mental illness can contribute to their communities and live productive lives.” 

The ladies from Mulleriyawa were extremely excited to have had the opportunity to take part in the trip and make some great new connections in a different community. 

“We are very thankful to Amba Tea Estate and for our new friends that we have made,” said one participant. “It has been an honour and a great learning experience for all of us.”

The book

 

To further support the ladies and their work, a mental well-being book is being published, with support from Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) and funding from the European Union, that examines the attitudes and beliefs that we all have about mental wellness (and illness). 

 

The book will shine a light on mental well being in Sri Lanka and attempt to challenge our assumptions about what it’s like to have a mental illness. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to support further livelihood projects at Mulleriyawa Halfway Home. The book is planned to be launched in January. 

 

About Halfway Home Mulleriyawa

 

Halfway Home Mulleriyawa is a 600-bed psychiatric hospital for women. It is under the directive of the National Institute of Mental Health, which is governed by the Ministry of Health. It is one of two main psychiatric hospitals serving the people of Sri Lanka. It has a strong team of motivated doctors, nurses, psychiatric social workers, occupational therapists and support staff working 24 hours to provide care for the residents at the home. 

 

About Amba Tea Estate

 

Amba Estate’s Plucky Tea is grown at their small organic tea garden in the hills above Ravanna-Ella Waterfalls in Sri Lanka. The teas are hand-rolled using traditional methods and create much needed value-addition to provide employment and sustain livelihoods in this remote rural community. They pluck only one leaf and bud to make beautiful twisted strands of tea, which produce a fragrant golden Orange Pekoe tea. Each batch of tea is made with care in small quantities and sun dried whenever possible, giving each a unique flavour, varying slightly in style according to the field, season and drying style and time.  

 

Support the Mulleriyawa tea bag project

 

If you’re interested in supporting these women and purchasing some outstanding tea and tea bags, please contact: 

 

Amba Estate - Ambadandegama

Bandarawela
Office Phone: +94 573575489
Website: www.ambaestate.com

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  

 

National Institute of Mental Health - Halfway Home Mulleriyawa
Phone: 011 2578242
Website: www.nimh.lk 

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  

 

         
 

Challenging unethical reporting

Best practices for challenging inaccurate or unethical reporting on mental health issues

Unfortunately, some journalists in Sri Lanka still report about people with mental health problems either negatively or sensationally. This adds to the prejudice that already exists about people with mental health problems. 

Research proves that one of the best ways to combat unethical mental health reporting is to make a formal complaint/protest to the media outlet in question. By hearing that their news item or television/radio show has had a negative impact on someone caring for, or with a mental illness, media outlets have been shown to be much more cautious when dealing with mental health issues the next time around.

There are a number of ways you can conduct this protest effectively.

Correcting inaccuracies

While inaccurate reports or details in news items are almost always as a result of human error, and most times don’t fall in the category of being unethical, you can still address mistakes when they occur.

Print (Newspapers)

Most journalists strive for accuracy in their reporting, but you may be misquoted at some point. These errors are rarely deliberate. Your concern should be that the meaning of what you said to the reporter was conveyed accurately, not so much whether the exact words were used. If the reporter completely missed the point, let the reporter know (in as helpful a manner as possible).

Where you feel that your views or facts you’ve given have been seriously misrepresented, you can request that the editor of the newspaper prints a correction.

Television and radio

A common error when being interviewed on television or radio is to allow a reporter's false or inaccurate statements to stand uncorrected. Speak up. If a reporter creates a false premise (assumption) to a question, first correct the assumption and then correct reframe and answer the question.

Example

If a reporter cites information or statistics with which you are not familiar, do not assume they are being reported correctly. Simply state that you are unfamiliar with the information.

After an interview, you may ask the journalist if you can contact him or her with more information you might think of later. Good journalists are interested in all the facts.

‘Letters to the Editor’

Letters to the editor in newspapers and magazines are a good way of correcting inaccuracies, responding to prejudicial portrayals of mental illness or to comment on issues covered by the publication. While only a certain limited number of letters are actually selected for publication, letters to the editor provide a simple way to communicate to a wide audience.

Most publications contain specific guidelines for submitting a letter to the editor, including very limited word-counts. Most publications require letters of less than 200 words. This means that letters must be concise. To increase the chances of publication, letters should comply with the publication guidelines, refer to previous articles or current events, and include contact information.

Tips for Letters to the Editor

  • Keep letter tightly composed
  • Use specific examples
  • One main point per letter
  • Use accurate, up-to-date information
  • Don’t make personal attacks on those opposing your viewpoint
  • Always sign your name
  • Include contact details (mobile number if you have one)

Please see the attached example that addresses an unethical suicide news item that you could alter to fit your situation.

Example - Letter to the editor

Dear xxxxxx,

We are writing to express our disappointment regarding your report of a child who recently committed suicide.

Not only is the reporting of the story irresponsible, it is also extremely unethical and potentially dangerous for the people in our country dealing with a mental illness. By providing personal details of the victim, including the name and where they lived, you have put the already devastated family in an even worse position. 

Your report also details how the child committed suicide - which research shows - will encourage others in a similar situation to do the same thing.

The picture you've used is also very graphic and hurtful to the family.

We encourage you to consider the following statements the next time your news organization is made aware of a suicide.

  • Don’t make judgments on the cause. Suicide is a complex issue.
  • Don’t present suicide as an accepted way to solve personal problems.
  • Don’t reveal the method – it can lead to copycats.
  • Do talk to mental health experts
  • Do consider reporting on trends rather than individual suicides.
  • Do promote help and support for people who might be affected by your story.

The media in all its forms has helped change the way we understand and talk about many issues, such as race, gender and HIV/AIDS. And in Sri Lanka, the media contributed to breaking down the myths and misconceptions about leprosy in the 1990s. We believe the time is now for Sri Lankan media to show that same leadership in regards to mental health issues - like suicide.

A handbook for journalists and editors has recently been published with the help of mental health professionals, journalists and people with mental health problems that provides further guidance and research on mental health reporting in Sri Lanka.

We would be happy to send you copies and speak to your reporters given the opportunity. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We appreciate your time.

Sincerely,

xxxxxx


Contact (the) reporter yourself if you have a relationship

Building relationships with journalists and news editors is extremely important, and can be a big help when an unethical mental health news item appears.

By developing a strong relationship, the chances are far greater of being listened to when you request action.

Contact the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (online and print media newspapers only)

The Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka is an independent body that accepts complaints on editorial content from members of the public and seeks to resolve the dispute through conciliation, mediation or arbitration. There is no fee involved for this service, and the PCCSL will strive to resolve the matter within 30 working days of receiving a complaint.

The PCCSL only deals with newspapers and online articles. For further details, including the process of making a complaint, visit http://www.pccsl.lk/.

Contact the National Institute of Mental Health’s media unit

While research shows that a protest is most effective when it comes directly from the individual negatively impacted, it may not always be possible or comfortable to make a complaint as an individual.

To help with those cases, the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) media unit will respond to the media outlet on your behalf.

Simply email all the details of your protest, including a copy of the news item and how it adversely impacted you, to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The media unit will then draft a response and send it out under the signature of NIMH to the media outlet in question as quickly as possible.

Don’t just criticize!

The best way to build relationships with your local media is to thank them for positive articles/programs about mental health that they publish or broadcast.

By recognizing their good work, media outlets will be more likely to listen when you present them with a complaint.

For more information, contact the NIMH media unit at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 


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