Psychology Field Trip

Trip Start Aug 11, 2013
Trip End Sep 17, 2013

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Flag of Sri Lanka  , Western,
Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hey guys!

Got some time to kill before I tuck into my usual lunch of - yes you guessed it - rice and curry before my afternoon project, so thought I'd come and do another blog!

Had a pretty interesting day on Tuesday, showing the local Doctor (Dr Jeggen) on his days work. He is an inspirational man (albeit a bit set in his sri lankan approaches). He has instigated the development of lots of community clinics (held in temples, schools, home visits).. where people who are too frightened of the stigma of going to a mental hospital, can go to get medication for mental illness. He also supports people who live at 'homes for the differently able' and elderly people homes. He goes around each day checking their medications and any changes in their condition - something which was never done before!

Sp basically he is the single doctor responsible for 25km where 200,000 people live. In the area he covers there are really high levels of drug addiction, young premarital sexual activity, child abuse and many runaways come here. So he has a lot of work to do! It surprised me that despite all education and healthcare being completely free in Sri Lanka, 90% of people use neither!! Many still turn to traditional healers or religious leaders to cure them of illnesses (which are often blamed on bad spirits) and its common for people to die whilst conducting rituals like exorcisms!

The first clinic we visited was set up in a temple in a town - quite a 'slum' area. Most patients who came were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, psychosis and epilepsy which results in brain damage and learning difficulties (as seizures have not previously been controlled).
There are some stark differences to treatment in England.. As I've said before there is no psychotherapy, treatment is purely medication. Also, it's common for family members (usually mothers or wives) to collect medication for their child/spouse, and secretly put it in their food or drink (something which is obviously illegal in England). This is done because so few people have any insight into their disorder, or accept that there is anything wrong with them at all.
Also, the doctor strongly advises all women with mental health problems to have a contraceptive injection to 'prevent breeding more mentally ill people'... that was quite strange. Although I suppose in some cases it makes sense, the doctor had little understanding when we said that in England it is a persons choice if they want to have children or not.
So in that first clinic we saw 23/28 registered patients. And the doctor didn't stop there - to ensure the other patients got the medication they need, we went on to visit each ones house.

The second place we visited was a 'home for differently able girls'.
There were women of all ages (must be 15 or younger to be admitted, so those who were 65 had been there a whole lifetime!!) and many had down syndrome, thyroid disorders, epilepsy and resulting 'mental retardation' (as the doc called it).
So the girls here are all disowned by their family or abandoned on the street because of the stigma their problems bring. Locals would say their family was unclean or not religious enough or something and that's why they have a daughter with those problems.. it's really sad because once they arrive at the home they never ever leave its perimeter - not even to look across the road. The women are totally un-socialised so many have no eye contact, can't speak and certainly have no self-care skills such as hygiene. It's weird though, that all do the 'prayer hands' when they see the doctor - they are trained so heavily religiously, it shows where the priorities lie!

The final place we went to, and the one that probably effected me the most was the elderly peoples home. 
There were typical problems here like dementia, depression and loneliness, diabetes, tremors (like in parkinsons or huntingtons disease). 
I really struggling seeing the elderly men get emotional - more than the women for some reason. I guess you know they really must be suffering for a man to cry so openly.. One guy cried whenever the doctor asked him how he was and it was so sad. His prescription was just repeated and he was lead out by a nurse :(...
On the plus side, the conditions (although still bad by English standards) were good compared to most elderly homes.
Dr Jeggen said that he couldn't take us to any other elderly home because we would vomit - and if he allows us into the places we already work without this worry - then they must be bad!
That really saddens me because these old people all had family and friends and lives once, and they are abandoned. Some were only the age of my parents (not saying your old! ;) ) and that's just frightening!! I could never leave my parents in a place like that - so don't worry jeanne and roy, you're safe!!!

Anyway... I don't have too much more to report at this point haha so I will go on my merry way and get my 5,000th curry of my trip so far!
By the way I can eat spice like it's going out of fashion ;) haha

Lots of love xx
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Jeanneslights on

Hi there Gracie- well it's comforting to know you're not thinking of putting me and your dad away somewhere-at least not yet! This doctor sounds like he is really dedicated to actually helping his patients rather than just treating them which,as you say, is in stark contrast to some of the other treatment you've seen. It must be so upsetting to see how some of the people have to live but sadly by now that is all they know. At least the doctor is trying to bring some comfort into their lives. I hope you get the chance to work with him again. Well I had better get a move on- dads moaning cos I'm not ready- we're off to Windsor today with caravan, meeting Helen & Chris & Pete & Sheila. Might send you a blog from there- he he. Take care then sweetheart and have a good weekend. Are you travelling this weekend? Love and miss you xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx bonnie sends her love woof!

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