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Yale Psychiatry, Yale Global Mental Health Program Launch Training Initiative in Nigeria

April 26, 2022

The Yale Department of Psychiatry, Yale Global Mental Health Program (YGMHP), and Imo State University School of Public Health in Nigeria are collaborating to provide a novel model of training to primary care workers in Nigeria.

The training initiative is an expansion of a program known as the HAPPINESS Project, which seeks to increase access to effective, evidence-based treatments for mental and neurological disorders in underserved areas of Nigeria by training primary care workers in rural communities to screen for, assess, and manage these disorders in their communities with specialist support and supervision. The project lead is Theddeus Iheanacho, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and faculty leader of YGMHP.

The World Health Organization launched its Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) in 2008 and the Intervention Guide (mhGAP-IG) in 2010 which is an evidence-based guide and tool for assessment and management of mental, neurological, and substance use (MNS) disorders in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Through this tool, primary care workers learn valuable tools to manage various MNS disorders and appropriate referrals to higher level of mental health care. It is the gold standard as a mental health capacity building tool and has been used in more than 90 countries. The program is traditionally two-week or 40 hours in duration.

Through the HAPPINESS project and collaborating faculty at Yale and Imo State University, the program is expanding the mhGAP-IG training into a longitudinal post-graduate course in community mental health for primary care workers in Nigeria.

Participants will register through Imo State University (https://imsu.edu.ng/article/30/imsu-postgraduate-admission) and meet in-person (if COVID permits) monthly for 10 months. Each session is around five hours and includes lectures and supervision. Organizers are planning to have Nigerian psychiatrists at home and in diaspora as well Yale Psychiatry faculty volunteer to teach for 1-2 hours (virtually) and for Nigerian-licensed psychiatrists/psychologists to provide supervision for 1-2 hours (in person and virtually).

Sirikanya Sellers, MD, YGMHP’s resident leader, contributed to the development of the curriculum which covers mood disorders, psychosis, suicide, personality disorder, substance use disorder, epilepsy, and child and adolescent mental health. Upon completion of the program, participants will earn a formal post-graduate diploma in community mental health.

The new program supports Yale’s mission of educational collaboration with academic institutions in Africa and creates opportunities for educational electives and projects for Yale trainees, including Yale Department of Psychiatry residents.

For Imo State, the project supports the State and university’s effort and policy of integrating mental health into primary care by building capacity through education and training. The program uses mobile technology to connect trained healthcare workers to mental health specialists for supervision and referral.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on April 26, 2022