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New Treatment Methods Adopted at the Oldest Psychiatric Institution in sub-Saharan Africa

Sierra Leone’s Psychiatric Teaching hospital in the capital, Freetown, has modernised and has thrown away its shackles. One of the biggest issues is substance abuse. Many of the teenagers at the hospital are users of tramadol – an opioid found in cough medicine. Others arrive in a state of psychosis after snorting the black residue on exhaust pipes. The hospital is operating at full capacity, with 150 patients receiving free treatment. The improvements are largely funded by a US charity, Partners in Health (PIH), which helps the government with running costs. The charity has given $2.5m (£2m) towards refurbishment. There is now a full-time psychologist and a residency programme, established to train seven psychiatrists which will more than double the five that currently support Sierra Leone’s population of 8.1 million. The government is preparing to roll out basic mental healthcare across Sierra Leone’s 16 district hospitals in the coming months, which should reduce pressure on the teaching hospital.