Episode 3, Part 1: Between psychiatry, literature and culture – Professor Femi Oyebode

Professor Femi Oyebode / Photo by Femi Oyebode
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I would emphasise that psychiatry has important links with all arts, especially opera and literature. Understanding ‘bizarre’ behaviour of human beings through the arts is an effective way to integrate psychodynamic understanding.

–  Dr Estela Welldon Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy, The Portman Clinic (Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust), London.


Theatre is one of the greatest achievements of the human spirit. It combines storytelling with the concrete expression and enactment of the action. It uses language, music, dance, dress, props, and lighting to create an illusion and to influence the emotional life of the audience. It is singularly the most exacting and thrilling of the arts. Mental life is its source and its nourishment.

 – Femi Oyebode

Professor Femi Oyebode (@FemiMind)  is an internationally renowned practising Professor of psychiatry medicine at the University of Birmingham in the UK, specialising in psychopathology. He has been featured on BBC Radio 4 (Audio) and has published in many renowned scientific journals.


He blogs regularly at Mindreadings (Femi Oyebode’s musings), where he writes on issues of interest and makes use of beautiful pictures to visualise his writings and simplify his thoughts to the general public. He’s very poetic with his writings on his blog and he randomly drifts in and out on issues seamlessly, attaining that level of writing that can only be achieved by someone who specialises in the readings and understanding of the human mind.

He has published widely on the relationship between literature and psychiatry. His research interests include descriptive psychopathology and delusional mis-identification syndromes. He is also a poet and literary critic.


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His book “Sims’ Symptoms in the Mind: Textbook of Descriptive Psychopathology: With Expert Consult access, 5e”  has been described as:

…an essential tool for trainees and indeed everyone interested in understanding symptoms which we meet in others…this book has attained iconic status…

– British Journal of Psychiatry


Bed time reading.

– Aaron Low

Epitomising Professor Oyebode’s ability to simplify complex subjects.

Photo by Optimcode

In the first part of this conversation, we covered many things, including:

  • Professor Oyebode’s undergraduate years at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria
  • Specialising in psychiatry medicine
  • The link between psychiatry medicine and literature
  • The role of culture and language in psychopathology


  • Listen to this episode on mixcloud
  • Stream by clicking here.
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Please, leave your thoughts on this post in the comment section and feel free to share the article/podcast with your contacts. Thanks for taking out of your precious time to read/listen to my article/podcast!

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  1. says: Saheed Akinola

    I think the Prof mainly spoke for himself about choice of choosing specialty and maybe that would have been more appropriate his own time ie people choice specialty base on passion, it still occurs, but now a days in Nigeria people choose specialty first to be able to survive in practice and just to become specialists. Though there may be some level of interest in the specialty but not necessarily because of passion.
    And yes, considering psychiatry as a specialty, I will say it is (if not the only) affected by culture …no research based evidence for this, but even in medical school then most of us shy away from saying we want to specialize in psychiatry then because we don’t see them as “normal” doctor (doctor were ie doctor of mad people) and nobody wants to be associated with were ie madness. In a way I think culture affect choice of specialty, for me psychiatry been a perfect example.

    1. says: Abdulghaniy Kayode Otukogbe

      He (Professor Oyebode) was quite clear and specific that as far as career choice is concerned he was speaking for himself. On mental health issues, don’t you think it’s time for societies, especially in Nigeria address it from a sociological perspective and not just from a medical angle? Please, I would like to know your thought/s on that.

  2. says: Motolani

    As a Resident Doctor in field of psychiatry, I relate with of some of what He said. Choice of psychiatry for me was based on the interest which I developed as a medical student under a Great teacher. He is a fantastic teacher and I was amazed about how he conversed and interacted well with patient in Yoruba despite having dual nationality. He made it look so simple while easing their suffering. His passion for teaching and helping the mentally ill struck me despite his busy schedule of CMD/VC.
    Also in Nigeria of today when it comes to speciality, for most when the desirable is not available one makes the available desirable.

    1. says: Abdulghaniy Kayode Otukogbe

      It’s nice to read about your positive comments on a great teacher who inspired you to take to psychiatry medicine as a profession and hopefully, still inspires your practise till date.
      Please, what’s your view/s on the need to approach mental health issues in Nigeria from a sociological perspective and not just from the medical angle?
      I like “…when the desirable is not available one makes the available desirable.”
      Thanks for reading my post and/or listening to the podcast.

  3. says: Saheed Akinola

    Human being is a social being therefore what makes up an individual goes beyond the physical body you are seeing.
    According to WHO ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellness of an individual not just the absence of disease and infirmity ‘ therefore there is mental manifestations of physical illnesses and both have some taste of social background of the individual.
    In mental health disorders a holistic approach has always been the method of management and that include the use of medicine, involvement of the social workers, psychotherapist etc but perhaps the importance of the social workers has not yet been properly emphasized in Nigeria, but to be frank that aspect of management has always been there.

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