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Providing Mental Health Care to Displaced Sri Lankans
February 13, 2009
Sri Lanka 2009 © MSF
In Sri Lanka, hundreds of people are fleeing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)-controlled Vanni area in the north of the country to take refuge in relatively safe Vavuniya district to the south. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides mental health counselling in Vavuniya for patients traumatized by the fighting. MSF staff offer support to a local mental healthcare organization by training supervisors and helping new staff develop basic counselling skills.
MSF staff say patients arriving in Vavuniya hospital are in need of both medical care and counselling. MSF mental health officer Karen Stewart talks about what patients are going through.
Together with two other MSF mental health officers, I talked to about 25 people immediately after they arrived in the hospital. It’s important they can talk to someone and express their fears and extreme anxiety. Of course, we can’t reassure them about their families; we don’t have first-hand information about what’s happening inside the conflict zone or in the camps. But at least we show that people care about them.