Opportunities for Improving Mental Health Delivery in Nigeria

In June 2014, I returned home to Nigeria for my first real visit in 10 years. This visit was distinctly different from my previous ultra-brief visits in that I was well established in my career and have a green card – in itself a small, but extremely significant difference. My objectives were twofold – my primary goal was to reconnect with family, old friends and training institutions – the elements interwoven in the fabric of my upbringing, and secondly, but just as importantly, to look for opportunities to contribute my expertise towards the improvement of mental health in Nigeria. It was also significant in being my 10-year-old daughter’s first trip to the land of her parents’ birth.

Having read the reports published by Patel et al in the Lancet series on global mental health in 2008, I was acutely aware of the shortage of mental health professionals in the developing world, including Nigeria. As with many contemporaries, I was, and remain keenly interested in serving as a resource to making available what I had learned. Rather than engage in quantitative research, I decided to get a street-level sense of what was both needed and feasible.In order to do this, I conducted several informal surveys using a qualitative interview style.

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The Psychology of Nigerian Corruption


The 2014 scientific conference of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA) took place in Anaheim, California between July 17 – 20. The theme of this year’s conference was “The Mental Health Challenges in Contemporary Health Care”. I was privileged to be one of the invited speakers for a panel discussion on mental health service development in Nigeria. My talk focused on opportunities to improve access to mental health care by utilizing and adapting existing human and structural infrastructures in the country. I also emphasized the need for pursuing a development model that synergized Nigerian diaspora experts and local talent; a model that has been successful in the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries.

The conference was well attended, with the Nigerian minister of health Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, the former Nigerian Minister of State for Health Professor Muhammad Ali Pate,  the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States Professor Adebowale Adefuye, the Consul-General of the Nigerian Consulate in Atlanta Ambassador Geoffrey Teneilabe in attendance.

It is almost a constant for every discussion on the prevailing ills of the Nigeria society to devolve to a discussion on corruption. Such was the case, during the question and answer session that followed my presentation. An attendee – a representative of the Nigerian embassy in Atlanta – asked a question that got me thinking and contemplating the inner workings of the minds of Nigerian politicians.  To paraphrase, the question was:

“Why are Nigerian politicians so corrupt? Why do they loot in billions of Naira and still loot some more?”

The gentleman was curious to know if there was any psychological basis for such corruption.

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