Forensic mental health in Africa: An update

Elsevier, Forensic Science International: Mind and Law, Volume 2, November 2021
Ogunwale A., Liebrenz M.

To the authors’ knowledge, the first overview of forensic psychiatry in Africa appears to have been a short article in 2006 by Frank Njenga in a global perspective on forensic psychiatric practice published in the journal of the World Psychiatric Association (Njenga, 2006). It was followed up by an editorial published in the African Journal of Psychiatry in 2012 (Ogunlesi, Ogunwale, De Wet, Roos, & Kaliski). Earlier papers than these focused on country-specific or sub-regional forensic mental health issues (Asuni, 1962, 1969; El Hamaoui, Moussaoui, & Okasha, 2009; Kaliski, 2006; Marais, Calitz, Pretorius, & Joubert, 2011; Morakinyo, 1977; Ogunlesi, Makanjuola, & Adelekan, 1988; Ogunwale, Ogunlesi, & Majekodunmi, 2011; Strydom et al., 2011; Touari, Mesbah, Dellatolas, & Bensmail, 1993) and fell short of presenting a continental perspective. The 2012 editorial presented a concise account of the history, practice, prospects and challenges of the field in different parts of Africa by adopting a 4-region approach with exemplars drawn from each region. It highlighted significant shortages in human resources and obvious challenges with service planning, research and training. The lack of contemporary mental health laws was also noted with remarkable concern. Since then, while several challenges remain, a number of important strides have equally been made across the continent and these are highlighted in this special issue. This piece attempts to provide a broad-based contextual understanding of the African forensic mental health milieu in which these changes are occurring.