Perceptions of mental health and mental illness among the Wanniya-laeto of Sri Lanka Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/fx719q63b

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  • The Wanniya-laeto, often referred to as Veddas, are the indigenous people of Sri Lanka. They live primarily in governmental designated areas in the forest with a few Vedda villages on the eastern coastal region. In-depth, semi-structured interviews as well as participant observation were the methods used to access the perceptions of mental health and mental illness among the Wanniya-laeto population. Research was conducted over a two month period and focuses primarily on the Ratugala Veddas with additional interviews conducted with three other Vedda communities, including one coastal village, to use for comparison and support. Five itinerant psychiatrist who work in clinics and hospitals that serve Vedda communities were also interviewed. Results show that the Veddas believe mental illness is the result of not being satisfied by with the basic gifts supplied by the spirits and refer to mental illness as a "city disease." There are no acknowledged cases of acute mental illness among the participant's communities. There are a small number of cases of depression in the Vedda's communities, but they do not associate depression with mental illness. The Veddas believe depression is due to external factors, such as government intervention in their lifestyle. Like many indigenous populations throughout the world, the encroachment of external forces has led to the loss of their land rights as well as a slow decline of their culture. The Veddas feel that the prevalence of depression in their society is increasing as they are becoming more detached from the land and traditional way of life. They believe that gaining their hunting and agricultural land rights would help restore their balance and prevent depression. Additionally, they believe that financial and social support from the government for their cultural preservation would also keep depression and other mental illness out of their communities.
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