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Public University and USAID Program to Strengthen Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Sri Lanka

Published 10/27/2022 by Global Communities

Jaffna, Sri Lanka – On October 11, 2022, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Activity (SCORE) entered into a formal agreement with the University of Jaffna to increase counselor capacity and youth involvement in mental health and psychosocial support. The announcement was timed to coincide with World Mental Health Month, which aims to elevate the conversation around what needs to be done to make mental health are a reality for people worldwide.

Under SCORE, Global Communities is working with the Government of Sri Lanka, local partners and civil society to address underlying challenges to reconciliation and advance social cohesion, including among those most affected by historic tensions, war and conflict. With SCORE support, the University of Jaffna and Department of Health officials will develop a six-month diploma program geared towards current government counselors, non-governmental organization workers, community volunteers, members of civil society organizations and interested private actors.

SCORE will also work with the University of Jaffna and health authorities to develop an experiential learning program. Students will be given opportunities to participate in community service, service learning, research, internships and student teaching while also increasing community outreach through mental health awareness programs.

Following the signing of the agreement, Menaka Sivakaran, senior lecturer for the Department of Psychology expressed her appreciation of the initiative and support from SCORE, stating that it was a long-standing dream come true for the department.

“This initiative will allow the University of Jaffna to connect with the community through mental health and psychosocial support outreach programs and build strong partnerships,” Sivakaran said.

Since early 2022, Sri Lanka’s economic crisis and country context has caused increasing challenges to livelihoods, food security and social protections and placed the already vulnerable and marginalized further at risk. Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) are critical in supporting people and communities to overcome these stressors, but the country’s governmental and non-governmental healthcare system, already strained following the COVID-19 pandemic, has been unable to manage this increased demand. There is a shortage of qualified staff (including qualified community health workers, child protection officers, social workers and MHPSS experts) and, at times, limited knowledge on the part of the public of available MHPSS services.

By helping address these gaps, USAID SCORE support will enable a stronger MHPSS framework with a wider reach, a pressing need which is pivotal for communities and individuals to recover from shocks and build resilience.

About Global Communities 

Global Communities works at the intersection of humanitarian assistance, sustainable development and financial inclusion to save lives, advance equity and secure strong futures. We support communities at the forefront of their own development in more than 30 countries, partnering with local leaders, governments, civil society and the private sector to achieve a shared vision of a more just, prosperous and equitable global community. Learn more at