Expert Sounds Alarm on Mental Health Brain Drain

A psychiatrist, Prof. Taiwo Lateef Sheikh, from Ahmadu Bello University Hospital (ABUTH), Shika, Zaria, lamented the insufficient number of specialists in the field of mental health, with only 300 experts serving more than 200 million of Nigerians.

The mental health expert, who told our correspondent in Zaria, said the situation was so pathetic that it required urgent government intervention.

Professor Sheikh observed that there was a serious brain drain in the field of psychiatry with over 1,000 Nigerian born and trained specialists practicing in the US alone and another 1,000 working in Europe.

He said, “Currently, around 3,000 Nigerian-born, raised and trained psychiatric experts are working in different countries abroad.”

He noted that statistics had shown that in Nigeria, one psychiatric expert was for about one million people due to the shortage of manpower in the sector.

The mental health expert also revealed that one in three people worldwide suffer from some form of mental illness, while in Nigeria the ratio was higher, with between 50 and 70 million of people suffering from various forms of mental imbalance.

He stressed, however, that mental illness does not necessarily mean insanity, explaining that it could be anxiety, depression or stress.

Professor Taiwo Sheikh, who is the former President of the Psychiatric Association of Nigeria (APN), noted that “this small number of specialists is grossly understaffed and very overburdened”, attributing it to poor remuneration, poor conditions of service and the lack of an attractive welfare program in Nigeria.

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