The Republic of Yemen, on the south-western coast of the Arabian Peninsula, was formed in 1990 when North and South Yemen united. Yemen covers 527 970 km2. The capital is Sana'a. The country is divided into 20 governorates and one municipality. It has an elected president, an elected House of Representatives, and an appointed Shura Council. The president is head of state, and the prime minister is head of government. Suffrage is universal for people aged 18 and older. The population of Yemen according to the 2004 census is about 20 million, but recent years have seen the arrival of many refugees.
Mental health in Yemen has been fortunate to receive government support, albeit modest, and benefits from human resource development projects. These projects have enabled Yemeni students to study psychiatry, psychology, psychiatric nursing and social work abroad. Mental health in Yemen has developed within a context of social development against wars, internal struggles, poverty, high rates of reproduction and illiteracy. Mental health disorders are closely connected to myth, superstition, witchcraft and jinns. There continues to be stigma associated with mental health and, by extension, with psychology and psychiatry.
A survey conducted by the Yemeni Mental Health Association (YMHA) in 2006 gave a figure of 3580 professionals with at least a BA in psychology. These include 139 people working in higher academic institutions. There are 198 psychiatric nurses and 45 psychiatrists and neurologists, giving one psychiatrist or neurologist per 500 000 population. There are only three child psychiatrists in the country and they work between hospitals and universities.
Educational and training institutions
Two types of institution provide education and training. First, within the undergraduate programme, four departments of psychiatry, housed in university faculties of medicine, serve the national educational and accreditation professional development needs. The training programme in general medicine lasts 6 years. Medical students spend one semester in psychiatry and two in the behavioural sciences or medical psychology. Activities in psychiatry departments are limited to teaching, lecturing and examination, and do not include research or service activities to the community. Reasons for this include scarce resources and consequent limitations and loss of motivation, social stigma associated with mental health issues, newness of the discipline, and a critical shortage of experienced specialists.