Psychiatrists in Nigeria have faulted the decision of the Federal Road Safety Commission to send motorists arrested for chronic traffic offences to psychologists in teaching hospitals for mental evaluation.
Already the FRSC said it is consulting with teaching and specialist hospitals which would handle the mental evaluation of traffic offenders scheduled to commence on July 1.
The corps clarified that the examination of traffic violators would not be handled by psychiatric hospitals but by certified government hospitals across the country.
The Corps Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, told SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday in Abuja that the psychological evaluation was meant to determine a driver’s mental stability to drive on public roads.
He explained that the exercise was not new, noting that it was simply rested for some time.
But the Association of Psychiatrists Association in Nigeria, through its Publicity Secretary, Dr. Peter Ogunnubi, said the agency had committed a big blunder with its decision.
He said that the psychologists are social scientists meant to assist the psychiatrists, who are the only medical personnel that can determine the mental state of a human being.
He explained that the psychiatrists did not support the FRSC’s decision to attribute social misbehaviour during driving to mental disorder because it would further stigmatise mental illness which the APN frowned on.
The APN spokesperson said, “Already we are fighting with stigma. We should see evil behaviour as evil behavior. Why can’t the FRSC say that someone driving against traffic has heart, leg or eye problems.
“Why can’t you say somebody driving against traffic doesn’t know where he is going. Maybe his eyes are seeing double. Why must they tie it to the brain?
“Psychologists don’t determine whether your brain is okay or not. They are just carrying out behavioural testing. The fact that they did one-year programme in clinic psychology does not make them medical doctors.
“They are behavioural scientists and they work with doctors. They can only counsel, they cannot diagnose mental illness. So, FRSC will end up sending the drivers to the wrong quarters.
“It is quite unfortunate that the agency of the government that should know these things don’t even know the difference between a psychiatrist and psychologist.
“Why should the FRSC see attributable miscreant behaviour as health problem, they should see it as social problem and should be addressed either by punitive measures or any other form of punishment and not attaching medical aspect to it.”
Efforts to get the position of the psychologists on the issue failed on Saturday as the Head of the Psychology department, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Mr. Omotayo Ajirotutu, could not speak to one of our correspondents, when contacted on phone.
Ajirotutu explained that he was attending an official training and promised to call back and speak on it much later. His call was still being awaited as of the time this paper went to bed.
Kazeem told SUNDAY PUNCH in Abuja that the psychologists would carry out both the medical and psychological evaluation of traffic offenders sent to them.
He said, “To start with, I think the word psychiatric is misconstrued; it is a medical/psychological evaluation of an offender to determine his level of stability to safely drive a vehicle on public roads.
“So, the hospitals that will handle such cases are not psychiatric hospitals, but the examination will be handled by certified government hospitals, mostly teaching and specialist hospitals, and they are already being consulted nationwide.”
He added, “The Corps Marshal has conveyed a strategy session with Commanding Officers with the aim of working out more modalities before the takeoff. It is not a totally new programme as the corps only rested it after operating it for some time.”
Kazeem described the evaluation as a routine work that the medical personnel could easily handle.
He justified the decision of the Corps Marshal, Boboye Oyeyemi to re-introduce mental evaluation for traffic violators adding that the FRSC recorded 3,646 cases of phone violation; 1,017 dangerous driving and 3,337 light sign violation between between January to April 2017. – Punch.