Swansea University student pioneers placement to help those with mental health issues in Bali

This summer, Swansea University psychology student Rhiannon Phillips travelled to Bali to bravely pioneer a Mental Health Placement with SLV, a graduate-led volunteering organisation.

Rhiannon Phillips making chocolate

SLV focuses on providing opportunities for psychology students and graduates to gain valuable, practical experience within the mental health sector.

Although SLV have been doing similar work in Sri Lanka for the past six years, summer 2016 was the first time volunteers were sent to Bali, Indonesia to work within the local community and provide much needed support for mental health services, which are often under resourced.



Rhiannon Phillips group

During her placement Rhiannon and other volunteers from all over the globe ran therapeutic activity sessions in psychiatric facilities for individuals suffering from a range of mental health concerns. In addition to their time at the hospital, volunteers also worked at numerous government run schools and social initiatives for children with disabilities and taught English in the local community.

Commenting on her time in Bali Rhiannon said: “ Most rewarding and magical experience ever.”


Today’s psychology students are all too aware of how important it is to gain hands-on work experience in order to stand out in an incredibly competitive field. In our multicultural society having a working understanding of global mental health is a huge benefit. The significance of understanding and respecting different cultures can’t be overstated if you want to pursue a career in psychology. Throughout her four weeks volunteering with SLV in Bali, Rhiannon has not only acquired much sought after experience, but also procured a knowledge of Balinese and Indonesian culture which can only be achieved through a completely immersive experience, which included living in a local village with a Balinese family.

Being part of a pilot placement in a totally different culture and country is not without its challenges. As some of the first ever foreigners to work in these facilities, the importance of delivering interesting and stimulating sessions for service users was paramount. Volunteers had to be innovative and creative in addition to drawing on theoretical knowledge from their studies and previous experience to ensure that the sessions were meeting the expectations of the staff and families of service users. Volunteers also had to combat a language barrier and live away from home in fairly basic conditions for a month.

The volunteers on this pilot placement pushed themselves and really lived out of their comfort zones for much of the week. The weekends, however, were a different story. Volunteers on the Bali Mental Health Placement had their weekends free to roam the lush, tropical island and uncover its many secrets. From water temples to monkey forests there was always something new to discover and enjoy. Volunteers climbed active volcanoes, slept in treehouses, learned to cook traditional cuisine and, of course, checked out the numerous beaches, which Bali is famous for.

It is largely due to the hard work and dedication of Rhiannon and her team that SLV will be returning to Indonesia next year to continue to run its Mental Health Placements.

  • For more information about SLV - Student & Graduate Placements Abroad go to  www.slvolunteers.com or email them on info@slv.global .

  • The Department of Psychology at Swansea University comes under the College of Human and Health Sciences. 

  • The College of Human and Health Sciences is the largest provider of health care education in Wales, providing an exciting and dynamic environment in which to study and further an academic or professional career. The College of draws together the disciplines of health, nursing, midwifery, social care, social policy and psychology. Find out more about the College of Human and Health Sciences here: http://www.swansea.ac.uk/humanandhealthsciences/.

  • The College of Human and Health Sciences’ mission is to conduct high quality international research that meets the needs of the people of south-west Wales and beyond. In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 our researchers in ageing studies, social work and social carework, were the best in Wales for the originality, significance and rigour of their research, while also being ranked 14th in the UK.  Psychology was ranked in the UK top-30 in its field and first in the UK for the impact of its research. Find out more about research at the College of Human and Health Sciences here: http://www.swansea.ac.uk/humanandhealthsciences/research/our-research/

Picture 1: Rhiannon making chocolate in Bali. 

Picture 2: Rhiannon (front row fourth from the left in red) with the group of SLV volunteers who went to Bali.