Observe the mental
health system in
Sri Lanka

Observe in hospitals, half way homes and at a local Ayurveda clinic

Apply now
  • Duration
    1-12 Weeks
  • Minimum age
  • Start dates
    1st & 3rd Saturday
  • From
  • Duration
    1-12 Weeks
  • Minimum age
  • Start dates
    1st & 3rd Saturday
  • From

Sri Lanka Mental Health & Psychology Experience

Gain a unique experience as you observe hospitals, within a half way home and at a local Ayurveda clinic. During your volunteering placement, you will receive a broad overview, understanding and insight into the mental health care system  in Sri Lanka.

You will be primarily based in the Galle District, which was one of the worst affected regions from the devastating 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. To this day, it has left a lasting impact both physically and mentally on the Sri Lankan people. 

By spending time shadowing and observing mental health doctors, you will gain a real insight into the struggles faced and the stark contrasts of how a developing country treats their patients.

Background to the mental health programme

Research conducted by the World Health Organisation states that the suicide rate in Sri Lanka is amongst the highest in the world. In recent decades, the mental health needs of Sri Lanka have continued to increase and the services in place have failed to respond to the increasing development and demand. It is estimated that in areas that were affected by the tsunami, over 40% of people suffer from common mental disorder and 3% from severe mental disorder.

It is no wonder why the Ministry of Health are suffering from excessive workloads, with too many patients assigned to each clinic and simply not enough time for doctors to spend with each patient. Not only this, but there is a shortage of supply of essential medicines and a lack of community based psychiatric treatment settings.

Over the last 10 years or so, there has been encouraging signs of mental health care services being ingrained, accepted and made accessible to the general population as part of Sri Lanka’s primary health care in both government and private hospitals. With the emergence of The National Council for Mental Health, the country is now moving away from the traditional cultural stigma - particularly stemming from the Buddhist lifts of reincarnation. 

The healthcare system now provides for coping with trauma and stress-related problems and understanding the mental health problems of those physically ill. Rehabilitation of people with prolonged mental illnesses and raising awareness within the local communities are all now a major focus.

Our mental health programme provides students with the opportunity to gain a broad overview, understanding and insight into the mental  health care system and needs within a developing country.

Where will I be volunteering?

Our mental health programme in Sri Lanka aims to provide you with the opportunity to observe and shadow local professionals in a range of settings.

Karapitiya Teaching Hospital - Most of your time on the programme will be spent at Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, located just under an hours drive from the volunteer accommodation. Although not the biggest hospital in the area, they have dedicated mental health wards where volunteers will spend time shadowing and observing mental health doctors during their consultation periods and in-ward rounds. Here you will witness varying forms of mental illnesses and will learn a lot about the processes and potential solutions.

Balapitiya Base Government Hospital - You will spend at least one day per week at Balapitiya Base Hospital, just a short 15 minute drive from the volunteer accommodation. This government funded hospital is the leading and largest base hospital in the whole of the Southern Province and provides services to over one third of the population living in the Galle district (220,000+). During your time here, you will have the opportunity to spend time observing mental health doctors during consultation periods. The supervising doctor will aim to translate and explain as much as possible to participants during the consultation with the patient.

National Council for Mental HealthOn an adhoc basis, you will get to travel and observe at the National Council for Mental Health. This ‘half-way home’ treatment centre aims to integrate those with mental illness back into society. Located close to Colombo (around 2 and a half hours drive), the NCMH is very much a forward-thinking framework which is all about rehabilitation for the patients.

You will be able to partake and observe their daily schedule of activities or consultations, where you will get the chance to interact with those based at the home (including staff and patients), ask them questions and learn about their experiences. You will also get the chance to support hands on occupational therapy, assisting with creative arts and also running the daily exercise classes. 

Village Ayurveda Government Treatment Center - All volunteers will get the exciting chance to learn more about the traditional Ayurvedic medicine (also called Ayurveda) by spending one day at the special local clinic. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest medical systems (dating back over 3000 years) and promotes the use of herbal compounds, special diets and other unique health practices. During your time here you will get to observe how patients are treated, learn all about it’s history, what it’s role is within the healthcare system in Sri Lanka and have the chance to ask any questions to the specialist.

What is my role?

Your role as a mental health volunteer / student is to learn and experience first hand the mental health system in a developing country. You will have the chance to observe consultations, in-ward rounds and other services provided to patients across a wide range of settings. With the differing cultures, procedures and a lack of resources, you will see some of the stark contrasts to what is provided at home.

When at the hospital settings, the doctor will aim to translate and explain as much as possible to participants when with patients. However, it is important for volunteers to be flexible in this environment and be appreciative that a doctor’s schedule can be very busy.

This mental health and psychology programme is only available to those already studying a psychology or mental health related degree at university. Please note we cannot guarantee your level of hands-on involvement and this will be at the sole discretion of your supervisor in-country and based on experience, duration and willingness to get involved. 

What will a typical day look like?

You will be volunteering from Monday to Friday and depending on your placement for that day, will determine your working hours. Although these will vary day to day, you should expect to be at your placement for 2-5 hours, between 8am and 6pm. You will generally be based within the mental health wards at and spend one day per week at the local Ayurveda treatment centre.

As Sri Lanka is a developing country, the facilities and services can sometimes reflect this. Please be aware that from time to time factors outside of our control may limit the project and schedule availability. Anything from doctor strikes to holidays can affect the programme and we will do our best to arrange alternative activities.

Where will I be staying?

We cannot think of anywhere better to stay when volunteering in Sri Lanka! Our volunteer accommodation is just a stones throw away (10 second walk) from a quiet golden sand beach that is lined with palm trees – paradise! It’s the perfect place to come and relax each evening and witness some incredible sunsets. Not only this, but you can snorkel in the crystal clear waters that have an abundance of colourful fish swimming around the coral reef and you may even see a sea turtle swim by!

The touristy backpacker town of Hikkaduwa is just a 10 minute tuk-tuk ride away where you can visit many restaurants and bars that back right onto the beach. A favourite town amongst most volunteers, there are many supermarkets, quirky shops and water activities on offer – including surfing. The fishermen town of Ambalangoda is just another 10 minute tuk-tuk ride away in the other direction and offers a more local and traditional way of life. You can visit markets, devil mask museums and also see the largest laying down Buddha statue.

The accommodation is also conveniently located close to the historic town of Galle and well known beaches including Mirissa and Unawatuna.

Other things to consider

University students only - Please note that our mental health programme in Sri Lanka is only available to those currently studying a psychology / mental health related degree at university. We are afraid the programme is not available to those who are fully trained / qualified or who are just starting to study something relevant (e.g. A-levels).

Level of involvement - Your role at the hospitals is largely observational, although the majority of students are assigned basic hands-on tasks. Please note we cannot guarantee your level of involvement and this will be at the sole discretion of your supervisor in-country and based on your experience, willingness at the placement and your duration.

Top destination - Sri Lanka is widely considered by our volunteers to be our best volunteer destination. The majority of our feedback suggests that this is due to the superior local support offered by Charith and our local team, the volunteer programmes making a real difference, value for money and accommodation location. With this in mind, we believe that Sri Lanka is the perfect destination for first-time travellers, under 18's and families with younger children.

Helping on multiple projects - Whilst in Sri Lanka, you will also have the opportunity to get involved with our teaching or childcare programme for no additional cost.

Weekends and free time - You will have every weekend off from volunteering and this is the perfect time to explore everything this beautiful island has to offer. You are more than welcome to simply relax around the accommodation and enjoy the nearby beaches, but most volunteers will use this time to travel and see the country. Further down this page you will come across many suggestions and ideas on where you could go. Alternatively, if you are looking to see as much of the country as possible during this time, travel with other volunteers and be accompanied by one of our local team members, then you may be interested in one or more of the organised weekend trips we run.

Loved it!

I loved my 3-month stay in Sri Lanka. Ayomi and the team were so welcoming, accommodating and helped me with any problems that I had. I would really recommend the experience. I think a month would be the perfect amount of time to stay there though

Ibukun DadaDecember 2023

Experience of a lifetime!

I had an amazing 3 weeks volunteering in Sri Lanka. Everybody at TMR was extremely welcoming, helpful, and supportive. The accommodation was good, with rooms of up to 8, sharing an ensuite bathroom, all meals were provided throughout the week, and transport to and from volunteering was organised.... Read More

Julia MichniowskaOctober 2023

TMR Sri Lanka

Absolutely loved my time in Sri Lanka with the Might Roar! One of the best experiences ever and I would highly recommend it to everyone. Ayomi and her family were all so welcoming, friendly and helpful during my whole stay, as was Chris. Such a wonderful way to gain new experiences, meet like min... Read More

Lydia BrunkerSeptember 2023

2 weeks in Sri Lanka

Had the most amazing 2 and a half weeks in Sri Lanka on the mental health programme. Host family were lovely and went above and beyond to make our stay comfortable and enjoyable, they took us to lots of local points of interest. The mental health programme was very insightful… we visited two ho... Read More

Elizabeth KnivetonSeptember 2023

Mental health experience in Sri Lanka

I had an amazing time in Sri lanka volunteering in the mental health clinic. Ayomi, Thaksi and the rest of the family were very accommodating for us and the extra activities that were put on ensured we experienced as much of the local culture as possible. I really enjoyed the hill county and Mald... Read More

Abi BanhamAugust 2023

Volunteer and Travel Sri Lanka

I have had an amazing month doing the mental health placement and travel in Sri Lanka. The travel part was so great and jam-packed - a special thanks to Karu for looking after us all and making the experience so incredible. Ayomi and all the staff were so friendly and accommodating! They put in s... Read More

Bonnie TringJuly 2023

Mental Health and Psychology - Sri Lanka

I have had an amazing, life-changing experience while volunteering in Sri Lanka. Ayomi and the team, along with her family, couldn't do enough for me. She was there when I needed a shoulder to cry on and to support me through, along with organising everything and dealing with everyone's requests.... Read More

Karen LoweJune 2023

6 Weeks in Sri Lanka

Have just returned from a 6 week medical volunteering programme that will form part of my nursing degree. The medical programme runs during the morning leaving afternoons and evenings free to explore. Most areas were really good and the hospital are trying ... Read More

Rachel DowlerAugust 2022

Best Experience Of My Life

Best experience of my life. Thank you so much to Ayomi, hector, Mamu, chutti, Suda, Karu and all the family. This has being once in a life time experience and they had made sure that I was okay and safe the whole time I have stayed there. Once again, thank you. Forever grateful 💜

Candela IglesiasJuly 2022

University placement in Sri Lanka

My two weeks in Sri Lanka on the mental health programme were amazing! Every day offered a different setting and scenario and I learnt so much from the local team and made so many great new friends along the way.

Matilda OsborneSeptember 2020

The best experience in Sri Lanka

  • January 2024
In April, I went to Sri Lanka on the 2 week Travel and Volunteer experience and had the BEST time! The experience was the perfect idea as it meant I could take part in a meaningful project while still getting to explore the beautiful country of Sri Lanka on my holiday from work. It was my first time travelling completely by myself and the team, both in the UK and in Sri Lanka, made it really easy for me. If you're in any doubt of going on a trip with TMR, this is your sign to do it! I'm so grateful to the whole team who gave me this incredible experience.

Katharine's story

Two amazing weeks in Sri Lanka and I loved every moment

  • June 2023
I spent two amazing weeks in Sri Lanka and I loved every moment. During my time I was able to fully immerse in the incredible culture of the country and the local team made you feel welcome and were all there for any queries you had. I’m very grateful and thankful to TMR for making this experience unforgettable.

Olivia's story

Volunteering in Sri Lanka at 17 years old

  • April 2023
In April I spent two weeks volunteering in the turtle conservation program in Sri Lanka. At only 17 I was terrified to travel so far on my own, but it ended up being some of the best few weeks of my life! Sri Lanka as a country is incredible - the people are so friendly, the lifestyle is very relaxed and the food is amazing! The mighty roar team in Sri Lanka could not have been more welcoming, anything we needed help organising would be sorted straight away. This experience was a trip of a lifetime for me and hopefully I will go back one day!

Holly 's story

Our life changing family trip to Sri Lanka

  • December 2022
After some health issues at the beginning of the year we decided to do something incredible in the summer with the kids and I’m so grateful we found The Mighty Roar! I have three children aged 13, 10 and 7 and this trip has been life changing to say the least.

Sarah's story

Sea turtles & childcare in Sri Lanka

  • October 2022
I volunteered in Sri Lanka for four weeks, split between the sea turtle and childcare programmes. Everything was really well organised and I had the most enjoyable time and met some amazing people along the way.

Freddie's story

Teaching in Sri Lanka

  • March 2022
Volunteering in Sri Lanka is a must do for everyone! I was a teacher there for 4 weeks, where I was able to plan and teach the sweetest kids from the local village, meet many other amazing volunteers and bond with the whole local team. If you're looking for an experience like no other, then head to Sri Lanka!

Malachy's story

Creating memories in Sri Lanka

  • January 2022
I spent 12 weeks in Sri Lanka with The Mighty Roar and I honestly enjoyed every second of it! My time in Sri Lanka was way more than just volunteering. I made some amazing friendships, travelled around the whole island and learnt so much.

Emma's story

Volunteering in Sri Lanka with my partner

  • April 2019
Our visit to Sri Lanka on the Sea Turtle program was nothing but incredible (other than a little hot and sweaty). Our 3 weeks was amazing from day one, with a massive warm welcome from everyone.

Catherine's story

Conserving sea turtles in Sri Lanka

  • April 2019
There is no better feeling in the world than watching a hundred or so baby turtle hatchlings scrambling along the shoreline to the sea, the determination and drive to reach the ocean, it never gets old.

Martin's story

Teaching and turtles in Sri Lanka

  • January 2019
I went to Sri Lanka in January 2019 to volunteer on the sea turtle program, but was also able to help teach English. I had a huge sense of fulfillment from both projects in completely different ways.

Esther's story

Volunteering with my family in Sri Lanka

  • August 2018
My family and I chose to volunteer in Sri Lanka last August for 3 weeks. We wanted to introduce the children to volunteering so that we could all help give something back to a local community.

Sue's story

Sea turtle conservation in Sri Lanka

  • July 2018
My daughter and I volunteered with sea turtles last August and we would 100% recommend The Mighty Roar; we have even looked at doing another project in the next year.

Jennie's story