Focus of WHO Sri Lanka on Mental Health


Global Situation

Mental and behavioural disorders are estimated to account for 13% of the global burden of disease. Mental disorders contribute to a significant proportion of disability-adjusted life years and years lived with disability. Even though mental disorders can be managed effectively with medication and psychosocial interventions, only a small proportion of patients with mental disorders receive even the most basic treatment that help them avoid chronic disability and premature death. Mental health is also strongly correlated to social determinants such as poverty and other poor health outcomes.


Mental Health Definition

Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.


Country Situation

Sri Lanka is experiencing demographic, social, and epidemiological transitions; non-communicable diseases and mental health are emerging more strongly as public health problems. Substance and alcohol abuse have increased in magnitude over the past two decades. Sri Lanka has one of the world’s highest suicide rates (ranked 8th).


Initially most resources for mental health care were confined to Western province, with three mental hospitals in the surroundings of Colombo. Together with the strategy of scaling-down the capacity of the centralized mental health institutions, decentralized district-based community mental health services have been initiated after the Tsunami, from 2005 onwards.



WHO supports the Government of Sri Lanka to develop effective and humane decentralized mental health services in line with the National Mental Health Policy of Sri Lanka, which was developed through WHO support and adopted by parliament in 2005. Hereby WHO supports the following priority areas of activities in line with WHO CCS and Mental Health Policy, leading to a cost-effective and comprehensive mental health system, which ensures coverage at National level.


1.      Supports the MoH in the provision of acute inpatient care through general hospitals

2.      Supports the establishment of outreach clinics in each MOH division

3.      Supports the development of a community-based workforce identifying and following up persons with severe mental disorders and providing basic care to persons with mild and moderate mental disorders

4.      Supports the establishment of Intermediate care facility with basic rehabilitation materials and training

5.      Supports the MoH and Sri Lanka college of Psychiatrists for HRD targeting mental health personnel to learn new intervention and management techniques from other countries

6.      Supports the MoH in the establishment of consumer and carers society

7.      Supports the MoH in the development of mental health information system

8.      Supports the NIMH in the development of “independent Living Home” for clients

9.      Supports the MoH and College of Psychiatrists in the implementation of successful emergency mental health services

10.   Support initiatives on stigma mitigation concerning the mental disorders to improve access to mental health services

11.   Support the implementation of policies and programmes for prevention of harm from alcohol and substance use

Recent Events

*      Community Housing Project 2009-2010 Halfway Home-Mulleriyawa, Sri Lanka


Related Maps & Charts

*      Expansion of Mental Health Services in Sri Lanka


Related Links

*      Sri Lanka College of Psychiatrists