The Department of Disability Studies at the University of Kelaniya, along with The Spectrum, hosted “A Conversation on Mental Health and Wellbeing” on 23rd October as part of the 2019 #WhatWENeed campaign. 63 people participated in this event which was aimed at university students and staff.
The Spectrum is a peer driven organization in Sri Lanka which advocates for the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities in a supportive, affirming and enabling manner.
Mental health challenges and psychosocial disabilities remain a source of shame and stigma in Sri Lankan society. Whilst there is a growing interest in wellbeing, especially in urban communities, there is still a reluctance to speak publicly and openly about mental health challenges and wider societal realities and needs with regard to mental health.
During this event, Niluka, co-founder of The Spectrum shared her own experiences with mental health challenges including navigating diverse mental health systems in four countries. She emphasized the need for a holistic and transformative approach to mental health that is contingent upon trust and transparency and which enables wellbeing, expression and participation in wider society. She shared how non-traditional approaches like Mindfulness and the Creative Arts have helped her in the process of cultivating her own sense of cohesion, contribution and wellbeing. She also highlighted the importance of collective advocacy, communion and peer support among those deemed ‘mentally ill’.
Participants were invited to engage in a range of mindfulness practices aimed at enabling wellbeing within the wider university community. They were given the time, space and motivation to reflect upon #WhatWENeed for the full and effective inclusion and participation of individuals with psychosocial disabilities in Sri Lankan society.