Teesside University psychology graduate Amy Smith says travelling to Sri Lanka provided the perfect way to help others while also enhancing her own employability.
Amy, 25, graduated from the BSc (Hons) Psychology in 2013 and the MSc Health Psychology the following year. Seeking to set herself apart from other graduates, she spent 12 weeks in Sri Lanka as part of a mental health placement.
While in Sri Lanka, from the end of April until early July this year, Amy shared her skills at psychiatric hospitals as part of a placement arranged through voluntary organisation SLV.
Amy, from Middlesbrough, decided to get involved in overseas volunteering having been involved in voluntary work during her time at Teesside University. She said: “I completed voluntary work throughout my degree to gain skills for employment, but I also wanted to get more hands-on experience.”
As well as volunteering in psychiatric hospitals, Amy ran therapeutic activity sessions at centres for individuals with various specific needs. She said: “It is rare for volunteers to be given access and control over treatment and therapy sessions, but volunteering in Sri Lanka offered this kind of access, alongside skill building in breaking through barriers such as language and culture.
“I have successfully gained a job within the NHS since returning from Sri Lanka and my over-seas volunteering helped to set me apart from other applicants.”
Amy added: “I was very unsure of what to expect, both from Sri Lanka and the volunteering, however I believe travelling to Sri Lanka to volunteer was one of the best decisions I have made both in my personal life and my career.
“Sri Lanka is a beautiful and welcoming country. The people are so willing to help. In a lot of respects Sri Lanka is behind the Western World in its views on mental health and disabilities, however in other aspects they are way ahead.”
Amy was trained and supported by Sri Lankan mental health professionals.
The SLV Mental Health Placement is partnered with the King’s College London Resource Centre for Trauma, Displacement and Mental Health.