In July, I embarked on a mental health placement in Bali, Indonesia with SLV global for a month. Despite mental health becoming a growing public health concern, there is still a lot of stigma attached to many diagnostic labels. I was keen on being a part of the Bali team as I knew that there is not only a lack of mental health awareness but that resources are also very limited.
Travelling across the world was not a simple decision to make. I had never been that far away from home, and I was quite nervous. The thought of living in a completely different culture, amongst people I had never met before was initially very nerve wracking. Thankfully, the team gave me a very warm welcome and I got to know the other volunteers very quickly. I lived in a homestay with six other girls from around the world, and they quickly became my second family.
In Bali, we were engaged in various mental health projects. We offered therapeutic activities in psychiatric wards, worked with schizophrenic adults, special needs children, and other service users with a range of mental health issues such as autism and down syndrome. We also taught children English and took part in different workshops such as meditation, hypnotherapy and self-love workshops.
We planned the sessions of every project thoroughly at the beginning of each week. Sessions always started with yoga exercises to help create a calm environment. Each session had a specific focus, aim and objective. One of the sessions for example, took place in the psychiatric hospital and focused on mood elevation through self-expressive activities. Our objective was to help service users develop a sense of self-awareness by recognizing positive qualities about themselves. We then encouraged them to express these creatively.
While we were engaged in sessions during the week, we travelled around Bali on weekends. Amongst other things, we visited beautiful temples, beaches, walked through the rice terraces as well as the monkey forest and art market. We ate Balinese food, learned how to say sentences in their language, and tried our best to learn their traditional dance. Our homestay family even provided us with Balinese sarongs (clothing). We also learned how to make Canang sari out of coconut leaves, bamboo and flowers, which is one of the daily offerings made to the Gods by Balinese Hindus in spirit of thankfulness, praise and prayer.
I am extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to work with SLV. I met amazing people and experienced a very diverse culture. Getting a glimpse into how mental health approaches in south east Asia differ from European countries has also been very enriching. The projects definitely encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone, allowing me to grow. It was moving to witness how service user’s confidence, self-worth and self-esteem increased after working with them over time, which reassured me that anyone can make a difference, and that small changes are often the most meaningful.