When compared to its regional counterparts, Sri Lanka has a better literacy rate for youth (99%) and a higher school life expectancy of 13.2 years, signifying the importance of schools in the mental and physical wellbeing of children and adolescents. But there’s also a 40.3% overall prevalence of mental health problems among adolescents in Sri Lanka, which is double the prevalence of mental health issues among the global children population.
“In the recent years, there is an increased level of psychological issues among the adolescents and young adults in Kilinochchi,” says Dr. N. Saravanabavan, the Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS), Kilinochchi (North, Sri Lanka).
“Children have been experiencing irregular school terms during the last few years and now the school dropouts are increasing because parents can no longer afford their schooling. When these children have nothing productive to engage in their spare time, they are highly vulnerable of being exposed to substance abuse and other negative behavior patterns including acts of violence. Recently there has also been an increase in violence at household levels, child marriage, teenage pregnancies and suicidal tendencies among children”.
Experts prescribe engaging in regular physical activities during spare hours, as one of the best options to keep young people mentally and physically fit. Research shows that sports and drugs activate the same part of our brain and trigger the release of feel-happy chemicals.Physical activities, especially group games are highly associated with mitigating stress and anxiety. They can also help to enhance confidence, resilience and empathy.
Disasters have been regular for a majority of families in Kilinochchi. They’ve been through a 30-year war, displacement, tsunami and other natural disasters. Currently these families are also facing the effects of the current economic crisis. Through this special project, World Vision plans to improve the mental well-being of the children and the youth of Kilinochchi through sports. Children and youth will be able to learn sports with professional coaches and provided with sports equipment to continue to engage in sports.
To launch this fundraiser Subi a World Vision staff and an athlete took on the challenge of running 70km from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy on the 13th of May 2023. Subi is a strong believer of the power of being physically active to improve mental health. She describes working out to be truly the best medicine for anyone’ s mental health.
The project started with this run and will continue to raise awareness among children and youth on the importance of mental health, breaking the stigma around mental illnesses, help young people engage in more positive behaviors and promote self-transformation through healthy leisure pursuits.