Meera Morjaria, who graduated from the University in 2015, spent ten weeks on a Mental Health Placement in various Sri Lankan Psychiatric Hospitals and Centres.
She helped run therapeutic activity sessions for individuals with specific needs and spent time in Care Homes and Psychiatric Units, putting the skills she learnt while studying at Aston to practice in real-life situations. Meera was supported by Sri Lankan Mental Health professionals who helped equip her with the abilities and cultural knowledge needed to work sensitively within Sri Lankan society and in often under-resourced facilities and challenging environments.
The Placement was organised by SLV, a volunteer organisation formed for Psychology students seeking real-world experience and looking to broaden their horizons. Competition among graduates for Clinical Psychology Doctorate places is fierce – around 20,000 graduates will apply for just 550 spaces in the UK in 2015 – and work experience can carry just as much weight as academic achievement.
Meera said: "I had the time of my life in Sri Lanka. The friends I made out there have become friends for life, and I have so many fond memories. I learnt how different hospitals and placements could be, for both staff and patients. Being a part of the SLV team allowed me to get some real hands on experience and use so many different skills to contribute to the local community.
“From jungle weekends to teaching English in school, to working in the Mental Health facilities all the way to spending a weekend with the elephants, my time with SLV was one of the most amazing things I could have ever done.”
In Sri Lanka, Mental Health Care is still limited. At present, there is just one Psychiatrist for every 500,000 people and there are reports of stigma surrounding people with Mental Health issues.
Since it formed in 2010, more than 1,000 Psychology students from across the UK have joined SLV to dedicate their time supporting people with mental health issues in Sri Lanka. While reducing the country’s care deficit they also develop invaluable hands-on experience and take part in team building activities including white water rafting and rock sliding.
Aston University pioneered the placement year. Work placements are given much importance and their benefits are promoted to all students – many of whom, in their third year, go to work for a company or organisation for 12 months. Currently, over 70% of Aston students undertake a work placement year and the University aims to have all of its students undertaking a placement by 2020.