WHEN natural disasters such as floods, tsunamis and hurricanes strike, the impact on people’s lives is lasting.

For many there is a enduring mental impact as well as a physical one.

This summer, a 22-year-old psychology student from Taunton will travel to Sri Lanka to help female trauma sufferers.

Beth Colquhoun, who is in her third year at Plymouth University, believes mental illness is still a huge taboo in society.

She said: “This is something which affects the lives of millions, yet those suffering are often reluctant to seek help and speak out about their experiences due to relentless stigma.

“People suffering should feel they have the same rights as those with physical illness and should feel supported by society every step of the way.”

Beth, who said she wanted to study psychology before she could even spell it, is currently on a ten-month placement at Broadmoor Hospital in Berkshire – one of three high-security psychiatric hospitals in the UK which houses some of the country’s most notorious offenders.

“I work with men in the Mental Illness Directorate who present an extremely high risk to themselves and others,” said Beth.

“It has been an invaluable opportunity, and in the short time I’ve been there I’ve seen extremely unwell men begin to regain some hope and learn to make better decisions.”

The women Beth will be helping in Sri Lanka will be tsunami survivors and those who have experienced ongoing civil conflict. Beth will also be running therapeutic activities with children and people with learning difficulties.

She said: “The trip will last five weeks and I hope to experience working psychologically with a completely different client group, making positive changes to the quality of their lives and helping those who have experienced trauma to work through it and come through stronger.

“Shying away from the fact that one in four people suffers from mental health problems isn’t going to make them go away – broadening understanding and encouraging those around you to voice their feelings in confidence may well do.”

To make a donation towards Beth’s trip, visit www.youcaring.com/bethcolquhoun