Research has shown that 9 of every 10 people with mental illness in Nigeria do not receive treatment. One reason is that there are very few trained mental health practitioners in the country. There is one psychiatrist for every 1 million Nigerians. There is also a major social stigma that prevents many Nigerians from seeking medical help for possible mental disorders.
Recently a team of psychiatrists from Yale University visited Nigeria and conducted workshops and training sessions for 80 medical and nursing students at a teaching hospital in the city of Owerri. Many of the students said that it was the first time they had ever received any training in psychiatry.
Theddeus Iheanacho, a psychiatry fellow at Yale, who is a native of Nigeria and licensed to practice medicine in the country, was one member of the team. He commented, “”We were there as much to learn as to teach. Applying our idea of what’s best for the treatment of a mental disorder may not make sense given a whole range of factors including the natural history of the disease in that setting. Not to mention many of our most common medications are simply unavailable there.”