We are in the midst of the worst economic crisis in the history of 70 years. Sri Lanka has run out of dollars to procure vital food and fuel imports, triggering weeks of demonstrations demanding the government step down. But it is, in the health sector, the consequences of the crisis are most visceral. Prices of commonly used medication have sharply increased twice in six weeks. Antibiotics, certain painkillers, and medicines for heart conditions are among those hit by a 40% mark-up. The hospitals and chemist stores across the country are running out of essential drugs, even to buy for a high price. Health department appeals for help have brought in donations from individuals and organisations.
The people living with mental health conditions are also affected by this situation. Mental health clinics don’t have essential medicine for weeks. Some of those are available in the private sector, but most people living with such conditions cannot afford to buy those from chemist stores.
The Directorate of Mental Health of the Government of Sri Lanka has issued a list of 16 essential medications required immediately. The government has agreed to receive donations directly, and CAN MH Lanka is happy to coordinate assistance in order to speed up the receipt of these vital drugs. CAN MH Lanka would appeal to our international friends to help us obtain these required drugs soon as psychiatric drugs are not being prioritised over life-saving medications in most cases.
Meanwhile, CAN MH Lanka is working closely with the authorities to accelerate the essential mental health services, including counselling services at the community level. The national mental health helpline is running 24 hours a day. The state mental health services such as mental health clinics are functioning, but outreach services have been affected in most areas by the fuel shortage. CAN MH Lanka is working closely with the authorities to accelerate provision of essential mental health services, including counselling services at the community level.