National Institute of Mental Health

Angoda, Sri Lanka

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The Nation - October 10, 2015

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National Institute of Mental Health

Having a healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body. While some of us have been lucky enough to have both a healthy body and a healthy mind, there are a few who have not been so fortunate. They are physically healthy, but suffer from various mental illnesses. For years, they’ve had to deal with not only their mental illnesses but stigma or discrimination. Not being mentally sound does not make anyone any less of a person, but society has deemed them unworthy of being treated as equals. mental

Fortunately, there are people and institutes prepared to help these individuals fight their illnesses and lead a successful life. The National Institute of Mental Health is one such place that offers care for the mentally impaired. The state-run NIMH, which was opened in 1929 is Sri Lanka’s largest tertiary care institution that cares for people with mental illness. Individuals are admitted to receive medication on long term basis or short term basis depending on the severity of their illness. Situated 15 km away from Colombo, in Angoda, this hospital is not the kind where you find rows and rows of white beds with patients on them. Instead, you find cheerful looking people waving at you, Victorian arch windows and even drawings done by the residents.

While the 15 hectare NIMH premises are divided into several wards, the Adolescent mental health unit is the only ward which admits children suffering from mental illness. This unit houses children between the ages of 12 and 18 who have serious mental illness, who have lost their parents and also, children whose parents are ill and are being treated at the same facility. Though some of these children are battling mental illness, they have no physical issues whatsoever. Therefore, this specific ward takes the nature of a children’s home rather than of a typical hospital ward.

The brightly painted ward currently houses five children between the ages of nine and 16 and can accommodate nine altogether.

The staff has taken on the responsibility of providing these youngsters with as much normality as possible and freedom to engage in leisure activities while maintaining a routine. A schedule hung on a wall informs   everyone of the tasks to be done daily, a habit that many of us still fail to keep up with on a daily basis. From what we were told, on a typical day, the residents of the ward wake up at 6.30 am and proceed with their morning routine of getting ready, having breakfast and also exercising. The rest of their day is usually spent learning the alphabet, time tables etc, drawing, reading, playing sports and watching a little for entertainment.

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