Newsweek profiles Sierra Leone’s only psychiatrist in Africa’s first mental hospital

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Dr. Edward Nahim is Sierra Leone’s only psychiatrist. In a recent profile in Newsweek we get a glimpse into the country’s only Mental Hospital, some of its patients, and the man who runs it. Built in 1872 Freetown’s Mental Hospital in Kissy known locally in Krio as ‘Crase Yard’ was the first institution of its kind on the continent. Today the building is a relic much like Dr Nahim who is retired but with no one to take his place has to continue working.

The government is supposed to be launching a new Mental health Plan which should increase the number of psychiatrists to 5. In neighboring Liberia the situation is equally as grim with one psychiatrist and one mental hospital. Both countries have populations traumatized by violent wars that lasted over a decade and mental health has been a very small. See except from the story below and follow the link for the article which I highly recommend.

The 67-year-old psychiatrist tilts his head up and says he will bring out the most “lucid” patients for me to interview. An aid escorts them in separately: a young Nigerian man with a wide smile who believes his penis has split in two; a middle-aged man with deformed elbows who speaks fluent German and is “a prophet of God”; a petite elderly lady with missing teeth who says she is pregnant with twins; and a man who divides his life into historical epochs and claims he is visited each night by people who torture him under the orders of his ex-lover Claudia Schiffer.

Nahim chuckles as he finishes his paperwork. “You won’t find patients like this anywhere in the world,” he says with a strange air of pride.

Nahim is the only trained psychiatrist in Sierra Leone, a nation that suffered one of the most brutal civil wars in Africa. Earlier this year, former Liberian president Charles Taylor was sentenced in The Hague to 50 years in prison for “aiding and abetting” war crimes during the 11-year conflict, which killed 50,000 people and left countless others maimed and with deep psychological wounds. After the war ended in 2002, a mental-health survey conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 400,000 Sierra Leoneans suffered from mental illnesses such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, with less than 1 percent of the population receiving treatment.

                                                                       Full Article Here 
  • Issa catco Kamara

    Hi my fellow citizens. The reason why we have one professional to take care of all the mental issues we are facing is because we have a non effective govt. which is doing nothing but try to make its party likable. We need Ned a govt. that will Invest for the long term. This is where the Sierra Leone reformation movement will come in. I thank you

    • Josh

      Tell us then Kamara, how would YOU invest for the long term.
      No good moaning about it. Be proactive and tell us how you would save the nation.

      Over to you boy.

  • TJ

    This Issa Catco Kamara, is an imposter going around using someone’s name. For those of you who do not know, please do not be fooled. This guy above is not the Real Issa Kamara whom people normally call “Catco”. This guy here is just a wannabee. Vickie, I know you know the real one.

    That being said APC has not been the only govt in the last 50 yrs that Sl has had independence. The problem lies with not enough importance being put on mental illnesses. Most people are not fully aware of the signs of mental illness to be able to even be aware of it.

    Mental illness is looked at negatively in Sierra Leone, and in Africa as a whole, so those who really do have some sort of mental issue are often wary of seeking help.

    Also it is not really profitable to practice something such as mental health services, at the moment it would be difficult to have people who would pay for this service, so unfortunately until the community starts to realize that there are indeed cases of mental issues all around Sierra Leone, and that it is not some sort of taboo, then Sl will not develop in the mental health sector.

    I think after the war, the SLPP govt should have made a harder push to have mental health care workers come in to provide treatment for those who were severely affected by the war. There are thousands of people who will never be the same again because of what they experienced or saw during the civil war