Sri Lanka struggles with mental health burden

Mental health has been a cause for concern in Sri Lanka for some time. The country has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, with an average of 6000 deaths per year; nearly 100 000 people will attempt suicide every year in Sri Lanka. In addition to the mental health problems typically reported in a stable environment, the prevalence of mental illness in the country is further compounded not only by the conflict but also by the devastating effects of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. All of these factors would undeniably have caused intense stress for the people of Sri Lanka, increasing their risk of mental trauma. Resources and funding for mental health in the country has always been low. And during a war situation even the most basic of services might not be functioning and in these cases mental health might be low down on the priority list. Basic Needs, a humanitarian organisation that mainly works with people with mental health problems in developing countries, states that there is only one psychiatrist for every 500 000 people in Sri Lanka, and most of these experts are concentrated in urban areas, leaving war-torn areas such as the northeast of the country that is most in need of mental health care, without adequate facilities.

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