Department of Psychiatry – Services

The clinical services of the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine are provided via the University Psychiatry Unit of the National Hospital Sri Lanka and the University Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit of the Lady Ridgeway Hospital.


Adult mental health services

University Psychiatry Unit (UPU), Ward 59 at National Hospital Sri Lanka (NHSL) is a 25-bed unit providing inpatient care to persons with mental illness. The Consultation-Liaison psychiatry unit (CL unit), one of the largest in the country, provides CL services to the NHSL, De Zoysa Hospital for Women, The Castle Street Hospital for Women, the National Eye Hospital and the National Institute of Nephrology, Dialysis and Transplantation in Maligawatta. Outpatient services are provided at the Day Unit and other Outpatient Clinics at Room 36 NHSL. Patients who do not require inpatient care but need to be seen urgently or more frequently than usual clinic patients, are seen in the Day Unit. Referrals from the Outpatient Department of NHSL or from any other medical practitioner are accepted from the Day Unit including self-referrals. Patients undergoing psychotherapy are also seen in the Day Unit. Outpatient clinics are conducted on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 8.00am to 12.00 noon. A specialised substance clinic and a clozapine clinic are conducted on Thursday.

The UPU is an accredited training centre for medical and allied health undergraduates and postgraduate trainees in psychiatry, medicine, community medicine, emergency medicine, nutrition, sports medicine and family medicine. The UPU has also received special accreditation for postgraduate training in old age psychiatry as a subspeciality. Clinical placements are also offered for trainees following the MPhil in Clinical Psychology at the University of Colombo. The UPU is active in research activities and service development in collaboration with other psychiatry units in the country, higher education institutions and international organisations.


Child and adolescent mental health service

Child and adolescent services of the Department of Psychiatry are provided at the University Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit (UCAPU) in Lady Ridgeway Hospital (LRH). This service was started in late 1980s by the late Dr. Anula Nikapota and established by Prof. Hemamail Perera. At present, the service has a six-bed inpatient unit catering to children under 14 years of age, where admissions are offered for developmental, emotional, and behavioural disorders. It is one of the two specialized inpatient units for child psychiatry available in Sri Lanka. The outpatient services consist of a day unit and outpatient clinics. A specialised clinic for autism spectrum disorder and a play therapy group is conducted with participation of the multidisciplinary team including a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry, paediatrician, social worker, clinical psychologist, occupational therapist and nurses. A weekly adolescent clinic is conducted at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka where adolescents are assessed and offered follow up for mental disorders. A weekly child and adolescent psychiatry clinic is held at Narahenpita in collaboration with the school medical inspection service of the Family Health Bureau. The UCAPU offers psychological management including individual and family-based interventions, parenting skills and play-based interventions as well as pharmacological management.

Assessments are also offered for children referred from judicial services. Consultation liaison service is provided to other units of the hospital and for children awaiting epilepsy surgery for pre-surgical assessment. Psychiatry input is also provided at the multidisciplinary meetings held monthly for children with disorders of sexual differentiation.

The UCAPU is an accredited training centre for medical and allied health undergraduates and postgraduate trainees in psychiatry, paediatrics and community medicine. Clinical placements are also offered for trainees following the MPhil in Clinical Psychology at the University of Colombo. Research activities are carried out at the unit by trainees as well as in collaboration with other child psychiatry units in the country and higher education institutions. The unit is involved in capacity building programmes for healthcare personnel and public awareness programmes.


Community mental health and psychiatry Services

Providing services to uplift the mental health of the community is an integral part of the service provision of UPU. Community Mental Health Clinics (CMHC) in collaboration with the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) were established in 2012 by the unit.

Community psychiatry services: Community psychiatry services provided by UPU range from assessment and management of persons with mental illness in the community to outreach services. These are carried out via Community Mental Health Clinics (CMHC) in Colombo Municipal Council (CMC). These clinics are run weekly in rotation in Forbes Lane, Colombo 10 and Pelengasthuduwa, Colombo 08, and Slave Island CMC health services. Among the services provided in these CMHC, initial screening, appropriate referral, psychosocial support and counselling, maternal mental health care and health education and promotion activities related to mental health and services are prominent. A monthly home visit depot injection program is in place for patients who have difficulties in accessing the service.

Community mental health services: Mental health promotion activities in the catchment area of the UPU is carried out at the community centres, CMC clinics and schools in the area. Community mental health team carries out promotional activities related to substance use, parenting skills and mental wellbeing in these locations on a regular basis. These activities provide teaching learning opportunities to medical students and postgraduate trainees in psychiatry.


Rehabilitation Services

A special Rehabilitation Programme is active in the UPU for patients with chronic mental illness. Patients are registered for the programme for a period of six months and an intensive multidisciplinary input is provided. The Horticulture Therapy Programme, Activities Programme and the Social Skills Training Progarmme are conducted in conjunction with the rehabilitation work.


Old Age Psychiatric services

The UPU has a well-established old age psychiatry service. A specialized mental health clinic for older adults is conducted weekly under the supervision of a specialist in old age psychiatry. A special cognitive rehabilitation program is conducted for patients with early Alzheimer disease in conjunction with a carers programme.


Cognitive Wellness Center

The Department of Psychiatry has been conducting a cognitive assessment service since 2007. This was initially established under the guidance of Prof. Raveen Hanwella and Prof. Varuni de Silva. This service was expanded to the Cognitive Wellness Centre (CWC) in the 12th floor of the UCFM Tower recently. The CWC will provide clinical services for neurodevelopmental and degenerative disorders across the life span such as for children with autism and elderly with cognitive impairment.


Addictions services

The UPU has a comprehensive addictions psychiatry service with inpatient, outpatient and consultation-liaison care targeting all kinds of substance use issues, other addictions, and impulsive and habit disorders.  The treatment options include individual, group and community based psychosocial interventions and pharmacotherapy.

The UPU works closely with other government agencies, such as Ministry of Health, National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol, and National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, and non-governmental organisations such as Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC) and Women in Need (WIN), in provision of treatment services as well as in primary prevention of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other drugs.