ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 40

Sahanaya celebrates silver jubilee

By Ayesha Inoon

Mental illness is far more common and distressing than we think - one in four families in Sri Lanka has someone with a mental illness and five out of the ten most disabling illnesses are mental illnesses. Lack of awareness and the stigma attached to these disorders are obstacles to their effective treatment.

The Sahanaya National Council for Mental Health, which has worked towards promoting Mental Health through the direct involvement of the community since 1986, celebrates its Silver Jubilee this year with the theme - 'Healthy Mind: Life Fulfilled'. Several activities have been organised throughout the year with the aim of raising public awareness on mental health issues as well as developing support systems for providing relief.

The celebrations started on February 27 at the Sahanaya Centre in Borella, with an exhibition on Sahanaya and mental health. The theme of the exhibition was 'Past, Present and Future'.

A play produced by Anoja Weerasinghe and the Abhina Academy, sponsored by HSBC was also performed at the Lionel Wendt on February 27 with all proceeds going to Sahanaya.

Several community-based programmes have been organised. A National Community Sensitisation programme, which aims at increasing community awareness of mental health issues, is to be launched with a series of activities, including mass media campaigns, development and distribution of educational materials and mobile exhibitions.

A Division Based Community Mental Health Programme aimed at areas outside Colombo is also one of their main efforts.

Among the publications to commemorate the Sahanaya anniversary is the book 'Reflections' that attempts to show the 'human face' of mental illness through individual insights of dealing with mental health issues and personal experiences at Sahanaya.

A book titled 'Psychiatry to Psychosocial Health', which will be the first comprehensive academic book on mental health to be published in Sri Lanka, will focus on several critical issues and is to be reviewed by a group of academics and professionals.

In October 2007, an Advocacy Forum will be held at the BMICH, which is aimed at changing attitudes and structural barriers that create stigma associated with mental illness. Special workshops on key topics are to be held on October 11 and 12.

An island-wide Children's Art Competition starts on June 1, 2007, and the prizes will be awarded on October 1 to coincide with Universal Children's Day.

The fund-raising committee of Sahanaya is headed by Ken Balendra and the Board of Trustees, comprises Prof. Nalaka Mendis, K. Kanagisvaran, Mahen Dayananda, Trevine Fernandopulle and Husein Esufally.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.