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This section of the site is updated by the NIMH media unit. Our main objective is to monitor and respond to mental health reporting in Sri Lanka. We also proactively promote mental health issues, events and stories at the institute and across the country.

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Ceylon Today - August 26, 2014

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Forum for long-term mentally ill

 By Surani Perera  Ceylon Today Feature

It is estimated that around fifty thousand people with long term mental illness are in the country at present. However, there are few facilities to provide special psychosocial rehabilitation services to them, especially in cities outside of Colombo. Moreover, there are very few trained and competent staff to provide such services, whilst fewer programmes exist to address specific issues of disabled persons.

Further, community awareness levels are inadequate, says Sahanaya – the National Council for Mental Health. It is in this backdrop that the inauguration of the Sri Lanka Chapter of the World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation (WAPR) took place recently.

Sri Lanka Chapter
The Chief Guest for this occasion was Dr. Afzal Javed, President WAPR. Outlining the importance of inaugurating the Sri Lanka Chapter of WAPR, Dr. Javed said: "WAPR is an international organisation that is working to uplift mental health, more specifically for improving psychosocial rehabilitation around the world. This association has more than 80 branches and its membership is open to professionals, patients, carers and families. Sri Lanka being an important country in the South Asian region needs this organisation to strengthen its services and links of local professionals with other countries. Similarly, it is expected that the work of the local branch will focus on improving the care of patients - with more knowledge and programmes designed to raise awareness."
While this is the first time that an official branch of WAPR has being opened in Sri Lanka, the body's mission is the dissemination of principles and practices of psychosocial rehabilitation. "Psychosocial rehabilitation is defined as a process that facilitates the opportunity for individuals impaired, disabled or handicapped by a mental disorder to reach their optimal level of functioning in the community. It implies both improving individuals' competencies and introducing environmental changes in order to improve their quality of life."
Thus WAPR's activities cover areas such as: promotion of national legislation, policies and programmes to meet the basic and special needs of people with a mental illness, international exchange of experiences and best practices in the field of rehabilitation of mental disorders, organisation of training opportunities for health professionals, to introduce strategies for psychosocial rehabilitation in specialist and primary health care services, consultation to local, national and international agencies to promote improved care, rehabilitation and services for people with a mental illness, and educational programmes to ensure maximum public, professional and government understanding of the needs and rights of people with disabling mental illnesses.
Moreover, WAPR aims to enhance the development and organisation of consumers' and families' associations, and mutual and self-help groups of individuals and carers affected by disabling mental illnesses. To this end, the promotion of open dialogue among consumers, policy makers and professionals will take place.
WAPR also collaborates with the UN, World Health Organization and the International Labour Office by supporting strategies for the treatment and rehabilitation of people with a mental disability within a community-based care approach.
At the same time, WAPR is a scientific society, a multi-disciplinary professional organisation and an advocacy group. Therefore, it welcomes everybody interested in fighting the disability related to mental disorders and raising the quality of life of people with mental illnesses.
"In real terms, this means getting a platform to coordinate different psychosocial rehab programmes and trying to bring different groups working in this area to join the efforts in a united way. It is hoped that Sahanaya – the National Council for Mental Health will become a focal point and with its track record of working in the field of mental health for the last so many years, will bring a change in the coming years," said Dr. Javed.
About WAPR
The World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation (WAPR) was established in 1986 in France, when about 100 professionals from 35 countries met at its founding congress. This congress was preceded by an extensive international planning process, which began with the First World Congress on Rehabilitation for the Mentally Ill in Helsinki, in 1970. Subsequent meetings of key professionals and agency representatives from various countries, mainly supported by WHO and the International Labour Office, resulted in the formation, in 1980, of a promoting group which planned, through its international secretariat, the foundation of the WAPR. Therefore, close links with the mental health programme of WHO have been maintained by WAPR since its beginnings.
Membership of WAPR is open not only to mental health professionals but also to researchers of various disciplines, administrators, policy makers, consumers and their relatives, and advocacy associations. This is because the primary aim of WAPR is to provide to all stakeholders a forum for ongoing discussion of relevant issues concerning the long-term care of people with mental disorders.


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