The need for mental health services in Africa is great. The resources are meager. The total population of sub-Saharan Africa is about 782.8 million people. It is reported that some African countries have no psychiatrists. A few may have one psychiatrist to 500,000 people or even more. International agencies such as: the World Health Organization, the World Psychiatric Association, the World Federation of Mental Health, and NGO's contribute in significant ways to provide relief against almost insurmountable obstacles. These obstacles include: economical and political strife, drought and famine, stigma, financial mismanagement, illiteracy, low man power and the devastating effects of HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria.
The expansion of mental health services and research in Africa simultaneously presents challenges and opportunities for psychiatrists and other mental health workers to make substantial contribution. While HIV/AIDs and their mental health concomitants have been prominent, there are other areas of mental health that require attention. In discussions with our African colleagues, areas frequently mentioned for attention include: child mental health, mental health policy, substance abuse and addictions.