National Institute of Mental Health

Angoda, Sri Lanka

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Home About NIMH NIMH - a historical perspective

NIMH – a historical perspective

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IMG 9842The National Institute of Mental Health was initially established as an asylum to replace the Cinnamon Garden Asylum. It was known as the Angoda Asylum and the foundation was laid in 1917. Its construction dragged on for nearly eight years and was completed in January 1926. It offered 1,728 beds in 18 wards located in six, three storied blocks. Each ward was designed to hold 96 people.

It was fully occupied in 1927, just one year after opening. By 1928, it was faced with the problem of overcrowding and subsequently the death rate from tuberculosis and dysentery grew in proportion to the overcrowded conditions.

During this time it operated similar to a prison with high walls and wooden bars, which enclosed the corridors leading to the wards. The environment was very much polluted. Gardens were densely packed with patients, many of them shouting and fighting with each other. A majority of men were sleeping on the ground.

Patients were unoccupied throughout the day and each night, about 100 ‘noisy’ patients were rounded up and locked in cells in a place called the ‘noisy ward.’ The cells contained a hole for the patients to defecate and urinate through and there was a small window high up on one wall for ventilation. There was no observation window in the doors of the cells.
Today, NIMH has been transformed and continues to evolve into a high quality institute that puts patient care first. 
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