Medical staff from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) are currently being recruited to spend seven weeks working for a mental health charity in Malawi.
The Scotland Malawi Mental Health Education Project provides speciality registrar psychiatrists to teach students at The College of Medicine in Blantyre and the health board supports the scheme by allowing staff to take extra study leave, annual leave and paid leave to deliver the training over seven weeks.
Husband and wife Drs Neil Masson and Julie Richardson went to Malawi earlier this year and both say that they have gained from the experience.
Dr Masson, who is based at Riverside Mental Health Resource Centre in Partick, Glasgow, said that he’d waited two years to before being picked to make the trip to the African country:
“There was a lot of poverty but the country is really beautiful and I can understand why Malawi is known as the ‘warm heart of Africa’, the people are so friendly.
“Of course there are strong links with Scotland and many of the people we met were familiar with Scots.
"The mental health problems we saw were more serious there but there is a similar issue of stigma.
“And while there is more family support this means that by the time people contact the hospital they have been quite unwell for sometime.”
As well as teaching the two doctors also learned more about psychiatric conditions in a cultural context.
And the volunteers hope to leave a lasting legacy of having encouraged more medical students to specialise in psychiatry:
“This is basically why we go out, to teach students psychiatry and to encourage them to stay and work in their own country.”
Dr Richardson, who works with the mental health service Esteem, also in Glasgow, added that she benefited by being able to hone her teaching skills:
“The trip has improved my public speaking and lecturing ability and I also enjoyed going with the students to the local psychiatric hospital to give them face to face time with real patients.”
The College is the only medical school in Malawi and Dr Richardson went on: “We worked with 40 medical students in a country with a population of 15million, so they were the brightest in Malawi, they really were the crème de la crème.”
Dr Linda Watt, Medical Director of NHSGGC’s Mental Health Partnership, said: “We are delighted to make this annual contribution to developing psychiatric services in Malawi.
“And the gains are two-fold, staff not only bring their training and expertise to the students, but always return with a positive experience of applying what they have learned in a different culture.”
Notes to Editors:
Picture shows Dr Masson with some of the medical students.
For more information contact either NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Communications on 0141 201 4429 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.