Opening Ceremony - Rehabilitation Unit, Kalmunai

The opening ceremony of the new Rehabilitation and GBV Unit in the Base Hospital, Kalmunai was held on 27th February 2010.

Guests Band
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Following is the speech by Dr. Judy Jeyakumar on this even:

The President of this occasion, Director General of the Health services, Director of Mental Health, The Consultant of the North and East in the Health Ministry, the Directorate of Mental Health, the RDHS of Kalmunai, distinguished guests, consultants, and my dear friends…

This is a great pleasure that we all gather here in the opening ceremony of the new rehabilitation unit and the GBV Unit.

In psychiatry the term “rehabilitation” denotes procedures for helping patients to reach and maintain their best level of functioning in their community. This help may be provided in an in-patient unit, day hospital, or rehabilitation centre. This is a very valuable and incredible service to our consumers with chronic mental disorders, addiction, street patients, and people with day-to-day life events ending up with gender issues.

The term rehabilitation is not new to us, after 3 decades of the civil conflict—the tsunami of 2004 penetrated almost all communities in Sri Lanka. Disasters, displacement, refugees, asylum seekers—these are all very familiar words to people. The 5R response to disasters necessitates that Reunification, Resettlement, Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, and Renovation are to take place following a disaster, whether of manmade or natural causes. The east cost of Sri Lanka has been very badly affected by these disasters, and the outcomes have been many widows, orphan children, child laborers, child soldiers, addiction in both men and women, gender issues, deliberate self-harm, suicide, community violence, etc. It is a collective trauma.

Rehabilitation starts from the bottom and reaches to the top. Cultural and spiritual norms are very badly affected, and the family distribution makes for more sensitivity in issues of mental health. The young age of marriage and misunderstanding create a lot of gender issues. The poverty, insecurity, and unemployment lead youths to fly to Middle Eastern countries. This issue is just the tip of the iceberg—many mental health issues have the etiology of those stressors from returnees from the Middle East. We haven’t any studies yet, but we have received a good number of clients with mental health problems.

The love and affection to each other has been decent, while the mistrust towards the different communities has also been a negative outcome of the manmade disaster. After the post-conflict period, this is also clearly indicated on the East cost. We want to travel the badly damaged roads to reach our destinations like the carpeted roads to replace our damaged roads. This is very challenging to rehabilitation, especially to the administrators who are the stakeholders in a responsible position.

The term psychiatry went out of fashion some years back, and now we are thinking about mental health in a broad sense. There is no more to good health than just a physically healthy body. A healthy person should also have a healthy mind. A person with a healthy mind should able to think clearly and should be able to solve various problems faced in life. They should enjoy good relations with their family, friends, colleagues at work. They should feel spiritually at ease and bring happiness to others in the community. It is these integrated, holistic aspects of health that can be considered as mental health. In other words, there is no development without mental health.

We, the stakeholders, try our level best to render the best services to the needy people. There are several shortcomings to provide a better service. The health ministry providing free medical facilities is a great deed, but on the other hand, it has certain limitation. In mental health, drug management does not fulfill all the difficulties of the patients. It is a psychosocial burden—we want to address each and every aspect of the problems. Otherwise the final outcome will be done in vain.

The Kalmunai Mental Health Association was registered last year, and its vision is for “Better mental health for all in the region”. We have provided micro credit financial support to upgrade our consumers’ basic living conditions, travel expenses to meet their traveling costs, etc. The government sector and the non-government sector of our association try our level best to provide good services.

Another milestone in mental health has been the opening of the new rehabilitation and gender-based violence unit inside the hospital. The rehabilitation we plan in this unit, includes medical, psychological, physical, occupational, social, spiritual, income-generation, and horticulture support. We are equipped to some extent, but need more. The IMHO-USA has a good concern towards us, and they have supported us in providing the micro credit finance, helping to us to develop the infrastructure. Dr. Akiyama Towaski, a consultant psychiatrist from Japan, has supported us in starting the computer and information technology unit and the needed 24-hour hotline to the beneficiaries to connect them with their families. They can also learn new things, such as email, internet, etc. I give a humble request to you sir to recommend a request to get an SLT line. The Sri Lankan College of Psychiatrists—UK chapter will extend their support with our volunteers traveling expenses. There are 6 volunteers with us in the mental health unit. They do a marvelous job with our consumers, unfortunately they are still in the health sector with a small payment as volunteers. I give a humble request to the DGHS…could you please help to recruit them as laborers in the health ministry and allow them to work with us?

This is a good model for mental health on the island. A single hospital has the acute in-patient unit, rehabilitation unit, day care unit, addiction and rehabilitation unit, street patients welfare and rehabilitation, gender-based unit, and good mental health promotion efforts in community halls. It is very cost effective and provides good outcomes. We want to fulfill the needs of the staff, such as nurses, attendants, an occupational therapist, and counselors. Our guests here in this occasion will be extending their hands with us to get these resource as early as possible.

We are very proud that our hospital is providing the holistic approach of these service in mental health. Another request we made to the DGHS recommended and authorized this regional mental health unit in the region. The “National Mental Health Policy” of Sri Lanka clearly indicates the activities at the district level, and we are happy that our implementation has satisfied the policy.

Finally, I am very much thankful to our Medical Superintendent and the acting Medical Superintendent for their commitment and motivation to finish this renovation and are here today for the opening ceremony. Miss Lynn Fermann, a professional occupational therapist who is occupied with our team and has trained them in rehabilitation. The well-wishers who provide us the infrastructure. The Director of Mental Health and the Directorate of Mental Health appreciate our efforts in mental health and have come all the way from Colombo. Dr. Jeganathan the consultant of North and East, has always extended his hands in support of our activities in Kalmunai.

Our Chief Guest and the Director General Of Health Services, who is here with us—his  good thoughts always appreciative of our work. The consultants of this hospital always extend their hands with our consumers and medical officers at anytime. Our team is very energetic, enthusiastic, and has carriage in the field. This is teamwork, and the outcome has been tremendous. Finally, I am very thankful to everyone who has attended this occasion and listened to me.