On Friday, 17th January 2020, Peter Salovey, the president of Yale University held a press briefing at Raddison Blu Anchorage Hotel, Lagos Nigeria where he hosted over ten press organizations for the official announcement of the Happiness project and the Co-sponsorship for Collaborative Training and research on African Linguistics.

Salovey gave a brief on some of Yale’s special global programs. These include the Yale Young Scholars Program, Yale Global Health Leadership Initiative, Leadership Forum for Strategic Impact, Yale Global Network for Advanced Management.

He further went on to announce that in 2020, Yale University will co-sponsor two meetings of the African Linguistics school for Collaborative Training and research on African Linguistics. The African Linguistics School involves the study and preservation of African languages and the features of all human languages. The programme makes connections for artificial intelligence to swift recognition by studying a broader array of languages. The first meeting is set to take place in July 2021 in the Republic of Benin.

“This initiative is part of a broad commitment across the university to build on our longstanding relationships in Africa,” said President Salovey. “In partnership, African institutions and Yale are opening up avenues of discovery that could be transformative for millions of people around the world.”

President Salovey also spoke extensively on the Yale mental health project in Nigeria, announcing that Yale University will be signing an MOU with CBM International, Imo State University (IMSU) and two Yale Psychiatric professors, Prof. Theddeus Iheanacho and Prof. Charles Dike, on the “Happiness Project”. “The happiness project involves the delivery of services to help people with mental health challenges across Nigeria”, “the primary goal of the project is to build research and education partnerships in Africa,” said President Salovey. A uniquely important part of the initiative is for more African students to study at Yale.

The Happiness Project is a health action for psychiatric problems in Nigeria including Epilepsy and substances. It seeks to integrate mental health treatment into primary health care using a standardized WHO tool, said Theddeus Iheanacho, M.D, associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University. The program has been recorded to have trained clinicians from at least 5 local governments, 14 primary care clinics and over 36 health care workers within the last 18months.

The MOU at this point is to collaborate with Imo State University to enable training, support and facilitation of implementation to foster the Yale Africa Initiative and its sustainability. Also, to position the university as the launchpad for the project scale-up in adapting the model across Nigeria and Africa in extension.

Theddeus Iheanacho told Ventures Africa about the parameters used to measure the impact of the project, speaking extensively on certain factors they consider in measuring impact. According to him, research is a key tool used in obtaining details of the data concerning the project and they look at it from different angles which include: Training capacity- which entails finding out if health care workers in Nigeria be trained to practice mental health. This involved the team conducting a pre and post-training test with results that proved an assertion that it is possible.

He went on to say, “the training and knowledge strategy used for training was implemented to result in a positive improvement on the stigma as stigma is a major element that limits access to care for mental health. Interestingly, the training did not only impart knowledge but also improved the stigmatizing beliefs about mental health among the clinicians.”

The total number of people treated is a major measuring tool. “Imo state has a population of nearly 5million residents with only one known psychiatrist which makes access to mental care very difficult as there are no available psychiatrists. But since the commencement of the project at least 150 people with different types of disorders have been treated by the trained clinicians,” he said.

Prof. Theddeus also added the engagement and awareness created by the project resulting in people knowing more about mental health and speaking positively about it. Hence, one of the components of the training is to change the language about mental health among clinicians, patients and the general public in extension.

He ended by emphasizing that like any other illness, mental health requires proper care and medication.

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