Ghana joined the rest of the world on 10th October, to mark the World Mental Health Day, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has set aside to create awareness of psychosocial disorders and promote mental health across the world.
BasicNeeds-Ghana and all its partners therefore extend our sincere congratulations to all people affected by mental disorders and other psychosocial disabilities, their families, caregivers, mental health service providers, and indeed all well-meaning people and organisations who continue to contribute towards a life of dignity for people with mental illness.
This year’s theme – ?Dignity in Mental Health? – gives all of us an opportunity to contribute to the discussion which will see a movement to action that ensures the dignity of people with mental illness is realized. The theme of the celebration this year impresses upon each of us not only to talk about rights of people with mental illness, but more importantly, to walk that talk by practicalising the minimum contributions each one of us, be it family member, friend, neighbour or health care service provider, ought to make in ensuring that persons living with mental illness have and live in dignity.
Through the collective effort of stakeholders in mental health development in Ghana, we have
made some progress towards ensuring that the rights of people with psychosocial disability are respected and upheld.
Some of the concrete actions towards recognising the dignity of people with mental illness include the passage of the mental health law (Act 846) and the establishment of the Mental Health Authority and its governing Board.
The establishment of the Regional Mental Health Sub-Committees has yet been another concrete move to effectively and sustainability address the needs and rights of persons with mental illness or epilepsy. More action, however, is still required to make the mental health sector of Ghana one that we can all be proud of.
Sadly, mental health in Ghana is still under-funded and under-prioritised. The supply of essential medicines needed by people with mental illness to become stabilised is still irregular. Specialists and middle level mental health professionals are still inadequate. Research into issues affecting mental health in Ghana is still low. Non-drug mental health services are still very limited.
People with mental illness still suffer discrimination, stigma and other human rights abuses.The effect of all these inadequacies affecting the development of Ghana’s mental health sector is what makes this year’s mental health day theme a call to action.
This is because it is not just enough to acknowledge that people with mental illness have rights; we have to put in work to ensure that these rights are made real in their lives. Each person, organisation and institution has a role to play towards achieving this objective.
BasicNeeds-Ghana takes this opportunity to call on government to review the free medical treatment policy in mental health care service by including it in the National Health Insurance
Scheme (NHIS). When this is done, very poor persons can be treated free of charge as indigents while allowing for those capable of paying the insurance premium to do so.
This could allow those who need the medicines, which are not in hospital pharmacies or cannot afford them to get the medicines from NHIS accredited pharmacies free of charge. This is one of the sure ways of getting mental health effectively financed, resourced and integrated into general health services.
We particularly call on the National Health Insurance Review Commission to favourably consider this suggestion and include mental health care in the reviewed and amended National Health Insurance Bill.
Dignity in mental health is a right of every person. Dignity in mental health: Let’s Live it Now.
by : Badimak Peter Yaro
Writer is Executive Director of BasicNeeds.