Psychology in Sri Lanka


As a developing country, Sri Lanka has room for improvement in many different fields, with Psychology being one of them. Although the sector has shown significant progress compared to the past, it is undeniable that there is still a long way to go. In the long journey to accomplish this excellence, initial step would be to identify the prevailing issues in the field of Psychology in Sri Lanka.

The state of mental health in comparison to physical health in Sri Lanka is pitiful. People are oriented in a way that they tend to look down upon mental illnesses and those who are differently abled. All sorts of mental disabilities and Psychological issues are categorized as one, and regarded with dismay. Specifically, the attitude among locals towards counseling has to be drastically altered, as it takes on a very negative note. The focus of counseling is wrongly reputed to be limited to those who have mental health issues, rehabilitation needs etc. The public is highly alienated from the service of counseling Psychologists towards those who need marriage therapy, support with family problems and domestic violence, work therapy, career guidance, motivation in sports Psychology etc. Therefore, Psychologists in Sri Lanka should focus on changing the negative attitude towards Psychological issues among the citizens, raise their involvement and encourage them to come forward in seeking Psychological guidance to resolve prevailing issues and prevent potential calamities in future. Even learning Psychology is at times ridiculed by narrow-minded audiences. The content of subject matter and areas of specialization are facts unknown to the public, which is why Psychological education should be encouraged by academics in Psychology.

In comparison to the state of developed countries, the profession of being a Psychologist is not as recognized in Sri Lanka. Most people are unaware of the function and contribution of Psychologists towards society. In fact, majority of Sri Lankans are unaware of the difference between a Psychologist and a psychiatrist. Therefore, it is vital that basic knowledge in Psychology is provided to the general public. Unlike many progressive countries (especially in the West), Psychology is not a subject offered in Sri Lankan school curriculum, making Sri Lankans distant from the field from a very young age. Establishing Psychological guidance systems in schools is vital, as Psychological health is undoubtedly relevant to the well being of each individual. The lack of Psychological support an average Sri Lankan receives is reflected in the statistics (Eg - suicide rates) of Sri Lanka. Mental health is a concept that goes unnoticed by the authorities, which in turn would mean that the responsibility of Psychologists would broaden.

This lack of awareness has caused many problems in Sri Lanka. At times of Psychological crisis, individuals are unaware of whom and where to reach, and what sort of help and support is available for them in the country. Many individuals, if questioned, would not know a hotline to dial or an institution to reach to seek Psychological guidance. Thus, it is vital that Psychologists make their presence more prominent, by raising awareness in the Society. This is especially true regarding rural areas, as poverty and other social issues put farmers among those who are at the greatest risk of suicide (according to past statistics). Suicide should not be the only concern, as there are many other mental illnesses, drug and alcohol addiction issues among the youth, cases of domestic violence and rape being the pressing issues. Not only do Psychologists have to deal with victims of these cases, but they also have to raise their voice against these issues passing by unspoken by the public. The general hesitation to openly confront these issues should also be eliminated with the cooperation of local Psychologists.

In addition, Sri Lanka faces a lack of support provided by the state to execute Psychological research, to establish solid school-counseling systems and to raise awareness. As there aren’t any significant allocations of funds to the field of Psychology, and due to lack of interest on the part of corporate sector in their choice of CSR projects (Corporate Social Responsibility) to contribute towards the field of Psychology in Sri Lanka, Psychologists have to manage with minimum resources and funds to improve the field in Sri Lanka. Those who work in industrial Psychology could possibly use their influence to improve the financial situations in the field.

Being a Psychologist in Sri Lanka comes with many additional responsibilities, apart from the typical role of a Psychologist. Working in their own branches of Psychology such as clinical Psychology, organizational Psychology, forensic Psychology, child Psychology, sports Psychology and counseling has no clear-cut or defined role. In changing the face of Psychology in Sri Lanka, contribution from all these sectors is vital, as well as the awareness and support of the public. To that end, a series of articles related to Psychology can be expected in near future at COEUS.lk.

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  1. This article was sent in by Nalanga Hettiarachchi. She is a final year undergraduate, majoring in Psychology at University of Peradeniya.

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