Using a societal approach to the determinants of mental health, a survey of knowledge about mental health problems in Sri Lanka is presented, including the consequences of years of civil and military conflict and economic retardation. Sri Lanka has the highest suicide rate for females, and one of the highest rates for males, in the world. Mental health care services and their limitations are described. Major problems include under-funding of services and medicinal drugs, overcrowded institutions, shortages of trained personnel, and under-developed community health services. Desirable policy and planning reforms are identified; in particular the need for expanded primary mental health care.