Mental health help for Malawi

Scottish expertise delivers country’s first psychiatrists.

Scottish academics, and doctors from across NHS Scotland, have helped train the first psychiatrists to qualify in Malawi.

The Scotland Malawi Mental Health Education Project (SMMHEP), backed by £300,000 from the Scottish Government, supplied teaching resources and volunteer lecturers to help train three student psychiatrists.

SMMHEP helped Malawi’s College of Medicine establish the programme in collaboration with South Africa’s University of Cape Town, with additional teaching support from the University of Edinburgh.

There are now four psychiatrists working in Malawi, one for every 4.5 million people in the country, which remains the worst ratio of psychiatric doctors to population in southern Africa. The Scottish Government funding is now supporting the training of a further 4 psychiatrists.

Minister for International Development and Europe Dr Alasdair Allan said:

“Thanks to Scottish expertise, for the first time in a generation, this project has helped train three clinically qualified psychiatrists at Malawi's College of Medicine including the first Malawian woman to become a psychiatrist.”

“The Scotland Malawi Mental Health Education Project has worked to address the chronic lack of mental healthcare provision in Malawi by educating and training mental healthcare professionals and establishing the postgraduate psychiatry course at the country’s College of Medicine.”

Dr Carol Robertson, Scotland Malawi Mental Health Education Project and Consultant Psychiatrist, NHS Grampian said:

“Over the past 11 years SMMHEP has arranged for over 100 volunteer Psychiatrists to teach the undergraduates in Malawi. This has resulted in the delivery of high quality medical education which has laid the foundations of psychiatric awareness in a generation of junior doctors in Malawi. The very positive feedback that we get from these students will improve the treatment of psychiatric patients and has inspired some of them to train further."

Dr Robert Stewart, Scotland Malawi Mental Health Education Project, Consultant Psychiatrist, NHS Lothian and Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Edinburgh said:

“It is very satisfying to see the new psychiatrists take up their leadership positions in the public health service, working alongside the dedicated nurses and other health workers. The support of the Scottish and Malawian Governments has been central to reaching this important milestone.

There is still much work to be done. The ambition now is for the College of Medicine to become self-sustaining in training a whole generation of psychiatrists who will lead the development of safe, effective and culturally appropriate mental health services across Malawi.”


More information about the Scotland Malawi Mental Health Education Project.


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