Dr Abdul Jalloh – the new face rebranding Sierra Leone’s mental health care

Abdul Malik Bangura: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 February 2020:

Sierra Leone’s new Specialist Psychiatrist and Care Manager at the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Abdul Jalloh – who replaced Dr Nahim, has indeed proven to be the new face that is changing, pioneering and rebranding mental health care in the country.

The 2017 AWOL Medical Practitioner of the Year is changing the narrative of mental health care provision in Sierra Leone.

After completing his psychiatry training in Kenya, Dr Jalloh decided to return to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in January 2017 as a Specialist Psychiatrist and Psychiatrist in charge/Hospital Care Manager at the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital.

He has significantly influenced psychiatric training throughout Sierra Leone by raising mental health awareness, and advocating for the rights of mentally challenged people – both on radio and television. Most importantly, his innovative approach to mental health intervention has improved patient care at the hospital.

Dr Jalloh is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBChB) graduate of Sierra Leone’s College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS). During his undergraduate training, he participated in clinical rotations in Psychiatry at the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital, under the guidance and supervision of Dr Edward Nahim.

In 2008, Dr Jalloh completed a six weeks clinical elective placement in psychiatry at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Wales. During his professional career as a Medical Practitioner, he worked in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone as a House Officer, later as a Medical Officer, rotating in different specialities.

After his internship, he requested to be posted to the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital, not only to support Dr Nahim, but also to deepen his knowledge in this critical but neglected area of medicine in Sierra Leone.

Dr Jalloh also furthered his clinical and professional development, whenever he visited the UK, by undertaking ‘observership’ in several mental health facilities, thus broadening his knowledge and skills in mental health care.

Continuing his professional development in Psychiatry, in 2012, Dr Jalloh completed a two weeks training on Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria; and in September 2013, he was admitted into the Master of Medicine in Psychiatry programme at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, which he completed in December 2016 with full sponsorship from the Government of Sierra Leone.

During his Psychiatry training, he was the only Registrar from Kenya and the first from Sierra Leone to be offered clinical placement in Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neurosciences in collaboration with the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and King’s College London. As a result of this attachment, he was registered as a volunteer at the Royal College of Psychiatrists with full sponsorship.

Dr Jalloh worked at the Mathari National Referral and Teaching Hospital and the Kenyatta National Hospital in Kenya, where he gained invaluable experience. He taught medical students; sharing his knowledge and skills with colleagues. He was sponsored by the Kenyan Psychiatrists Association, World Psychiatrist Association and Pharmaceutical companies in Kenya to attend conferences locally and Internationally, which enriched his experience in diverse areas of psychiatry. Dr Jalloh was among the best in his class.

In addition to running the Sierra Leone Psychiatry Hospital, Dr Jalloh is also a Lecturer in the Department of Internal Medicine at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, University of Sierra Leone.

Dr Jalloh worked with the World Health Organisation in training Community Health Officers on the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) to acquire skills in recognising and treating common mental health disorders in Sierra Leone.

He has participated in several international training programmes, workshops and conferences – both as a delegate and a presenter, including conferences organised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Biological Psychiatry Congress and the World Psychiatrist Association.

Dr Jalloh was among the twenty young psychiatrists in the world awarded by the South African Society of Psychiatrists Early Career Researchers award in 2017, after presenting his research study conducted in Sierra Leone.

In 2019, Dr Jalloh was honoured by the Royal College of Psychiatrist (RCPsych) African Division, with the 2019 International Divisions’ Award for demonstrating commitment to psychiatry.

Dr Jalloh is an active member of the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA), Member of the American Psychiatrists Association (APA), Member World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), and International Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych), Member of the European Psychiatrists Association (EPA), Member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP), National Coordinator-International Consortium of Universities on Drug Demand Reduction (ICUDDR), Focal point- West African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (WENDU) and Pan-African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use. Presently his is the Finance Officer for the Royal College of Psychiatrist (RCPsych) African Division.

According to report published by the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital (SLPTH), the hospital it is believed, attained its current status quite recently, after thriving for a century and over as an asylum and then transitioning to a mental health hospital.

Currently, the SLPTH is the premiere facility in the country that caters for the admission and out-patient treatment of people with mental health challenges. It was established in 1820 as an asylum for captives, during the colonial era. It is regarded as the oldest psychiatric hospital in the West African Sub-region.

It is a tertiary hospital in the University of Sierra Leone Teaching Hospitals Complex, undergoing renovation for accreditation from the West African College of Physicians for future generations of mental health professionals to be trained in Sierra Leone.

Dr Jalloh is on record to have brought development to a hospital that is supposed to provide holistic mental health treatment circle for patients, but the past realities were in contrast with the Ministry of Health core operational aspirations.

This was a hospital with lots of challenges, such as vulnerable shared facilities with non-functional toilets, no water supply, no medications, no temperature controlled drug storage, limited electricity, broken windows – exposing patients to external environmental hazards and infections. Patients were using rubber containers as substitute for lavatory.

The debris of the dilapidated facility exposed patients to life threatening objects. Low and broken perimeter fence with bushy compound making it easy for patients to leave the hospital unsupervised to engage in drug abuse and committing violence in the wider community.

With Dr Jalloh’s advocacy and good leadership, a strong partnership between the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and NGOs (Partners in Health and Handicap International) was established.

As a result of this partnership, the entire hospital has been systematically refurbished to a modern mental health facility for efficient health care delivery, and also for meeting the training/academic goals of the institution.

Dr Jalloh envisages a mental health care facility where every citizen will be treated in a therapeutic environment and be the best in the sub-region. Presently, there is a laudable structural refurbishment work taking place in the facility, giving a facelift to its façade, with a new administrative building also under construction.

In addition, a number of wards have been renovated by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation with support from Partners in Health (PIH) – with tiled floors, improved toilet facilities, fitting new beds and lighting systems, fans for ventilation and plasma televisions installed.

A modernized lecture hall and a semi conference room, with a library has been reconstructed by PIH. This aligns with efforts to optimize training and medical education at the hospital.

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation with support from Partners in Health (PI H) have completed the rehabilitation of the Laboratory building that will be stocked with equipment (Analyzers), Reagents, Consumables and office equipment.

A Recreational Centre (Occupational Therapy Unit) has also been constructed by PIH and Handicap International with a pavilion, basketball and hand tennis courts; also equipped with sewing machines, musical instruments, and various indoor games.

In October 2020, Sierra Leone will be celebrating 200 years of mental Health care provision with a fully equipped, modernized psychiatric Teaching Hospital.

Dr Jalloh’s vision is to decentralize mental health services across the country, and integrate its services into all levels of health care (primary, secondary and tertiary) in Sierra Leone.

You can read Dr. Abdul Jalloh’s interview with the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph tomorrow.

4 Comments

  1. Very, very impressive and inspiring stuff. Dr. Jalloh is a member of one in a million personalities. He represents the best and brightest our sweet mama Salone has to offer. We are indeed a nation blessed with highly talented and gifted human beings. Our only curse is our political landscape.

    All across our nation, there are young talented individuals whose huge potentials are being neglected for a variety of reasons including the lack of sponsorship and in many occasions political inclinations . Time and again, our politicians are more likely to award international scholarships to family or tribal members instead of the right group of Sierra Leoneans. If we can minimize the politics of tribalism and nepotism in formulating educational and national developmental plans, the sky will be the limit for our nation.

  2. Truly Impressive – and Congratulations to Dr Jalloh,for his dedication to Sierra Leone,and his steadfast,tireless commitment,geared towards improving and rebranding Mental health care in our beloved country.Bravo! For those of us,with compassionate hearts,who genuinely care about the dispositions,and well-being of others,this is truly inspiring,and wonderful news.

    What man is it that wouldn’t celebrate,upon hearing that the daily lives of those among us that are constantly being unfairly stigmatized, mistreated,and subjected to unnecessary harassment, humiliation, and ridicule,even though,they are the most fragile, vulnerable people in our society,deserving of our compassion,are now in good,and capable hands? Good looking out,Dr Jalloh,good looking out man…and may Almighty God continue to strengthen,and empower your hands more,and more each day,that passes by…The Sky is only the beginning of greatness for men,and women who dedicate their lives to helping others…Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  3. I read this brilliant story and I felt proud being a Sierra Leonean. This is real success story that we must all be proud of. It goes to show that good can come out of this country, if only politicians and government can get their acts togethrr and start behaving as patriots with commitment to develop the country, stop coruption and tribalism.

    Well done Dr Jalloh. It is so sad to see that in a country of 7 million people you are the only Psychiatrist we can boast of. Our leadres have no shame, They have no pride in themselves. Useless buggers.

  4. Impressive autobiography but, what is the annual salary of this learned doctor after going through all those tedious struggles to help his country? I hope the learned doctor not only succeeds Dr. Nahim for the sake of job title but also, get a decent pay package. Congrats Dr. Abdul Jalloh and may God bless you.

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