Responding to the mental health and psychosocial needs of the people of Sri Lanka in disasters

Int Rev Psychiatry. 2006 Dec;18(6):593-7. doi: 10.1080/09540260601129206.


This paper describes the mental health and psychosocial response to the Boxing Day tsunami in Sri Lanka. The need to deal with the immediate psychological distress of survivors and provide psychosocial support after the tsunami was recognized early by the President of Sri Lanka and advisory group set up. In conjunction with the WHO regional office and local representatives, a National Plan of action for management and delivery of psychosocial and mental health care needs was set up. Advice was provided on the right type of psychological approaches to use when dealing with survivors--for example, not forcing people to relive their experiences, listening without offering opinions and not diagnosing or labelling people as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The early response and community level work are described in this paper as well as how this has led to a new level of disaster preparedness and a new national mental health policy and proposals for new mental health legislation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / prevention & control
  • Community-Institutional Relations
  • Disaster Planning*
  • Disasters*
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health Services / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Psychology
  • Social Support*
  • Sri Lanka
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • World Health Organization