Mental Health: The forgotten menace

On Tuesday, August 2, The Ghanaian media space was hit with the news that a mentally challenged woman was brutally attacked and she retaliated by attacking her assailant with a rock & killed him on the Nkrumah Interchange. Apparently, before that particular incident, eyewitnesses had observed that the said woman usually threw stones at moving vehicles.

As odd as it was, the sad event lends credence to the fears of the public on how such people jeopardize the security of the public and it served as a wake-up call to the stakeholders within the Mental health space to Fastrack efforts to remove the mentally challenged from our streets.

Mentally challenged individuals are usually without shelter & can be found almost everywhere, we see them almost on a daily basis, and we are witnesses to the havoc they can wreak within the public space.

The blame for the existence of mental illnesses is usually placed at the doorstep of superstition and this coupled with a lack of funds prevents families from pursuing the right help for their affected persons.

The Ghana Mental Health Authority and the World Health Organisation suggest that an estimated 3.1 million Ghanaians, representing 10 percent of the estimated 31 million total population have a type of mental disorder, with about 16,000 of the cases reported being dire.

The earlier story is a wake-up call for us to give the mental health sector the needed facelift & make a considerable investment in the sector.

It is also estimated that about 20,000 mentally ill persons roam the streets nationwide, as of 2021. A little over 1600 of them are believed to be in Accra and Tema alone, and their number is expected to rise further.

Also, the WHO statistics reveal a shocking truth that 41 percent of Ghanaians currently experiencing psychological distress.

Currently, Ghana has only three major health facilities specifically set aside to treat mental illnesses. These are the Accra Psychiatric Hospital in the Greater Accra Region, Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital at Ankaful near Cape Coast in the Central region, and Pantang Psychiatric Hospital on the Abokobi road close to the Eastern Region.

Presently, there is an estimated 2,463 psychiatric nurses, 39 psychiatric doctors, 244 psychologists, four occupational therapist, 362 mental health social workers, and five additional regional hospitals delivering mental healthcare services to the over 31 million Ghanaians.

The organization (WHO) enjoins member states to implement a comprehensive mental health action plan 2013-2030 to improve mental health by strengthening effective leadership, governance, and financing.

However, WHO’s mental health atlas 2020 analysis of member states’ performance against the action plans showed insufficient commitment to the target of the agreed action plans.

The mental health atlas released every three years is a compilation of data provided by countries on mental health policies, legislation, financing, utilization services, and data collection
systems.

Ghana’s mental health system has several strengths and weaknesses. The Ministry of Health is committed to the deinstitutionalization and integration of mental health services into a variety of healthcare settings. Ghana has established mental health legislation and governing board. A myriad of evidence-based treatments are available at public psychiatric hospitals, and within communities, there are several nongovernmental organizations that support self-help groups for people with mental health conditions.

Despite progress, challenges remain. The distribution of mental health services is geared towards the southern part of the country, with limited services available in the northern region. Services and resources are concentrated in psychiatric hospitals rather than more accessible community settings. There is a significant treatment gap.

 

Source: Moses Desire Kouyo

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