The Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD) has urged both state and non-state actors not to leave deaf people with mental problems behind the United Nations transformation agenda of the 2030 sustainable development goals.
It has, thus, called for the removal of all barriers facing deaf people with psychosocial disorders and also create an enabling physical environment for the provision of enhanced public services and recognition of deaf people in Ghana.
Mr Juventus Duorinaah, Executive Director of GNAD, said this in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday in commemoration of this year’s world mental health day, which is observed on October 10th each year.
The day is part of the global efforts to raise awareness of mental health issues and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.
The 2021 celebration is considered significant to the over 211,000 deaf population in Ghana because it raises an additional issue about mental health in an unequal world.
Deaf individuals and hard of hearing with mental health face challenges in accessing quality information on mental health, particularly those with issues of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
They are often challenged in accessing the required services because of limited knowledge about where the nearest services point are located.
Mr Duorinaah said many times they had to foot the cost of drugs and be subjected to stigma, discrimination and rejection.
“Deaf people face additional barriers understanding where to seek for the services, explaining their conditions to health workers, getting health workers to understand their situation feedback, especially for those who are unable to comprehend written texts,” he added.
He stressed the need for deaf people to be able to use mental health facilities that offered stigma-free services and had the opportunity to make informed decisions on their treatment as well as being treated with dignity.
He called on Ghanaians, especially policymakers and service providers, to pause and reflect on the mental health situation of persons with disabilities, “particularly those who are deaf and hard-of-hearing and how, in our journey towards agenda 2030, none is left behind.”
He commended the Ghana Health Services for making efforts to ensure that some health facilities were disability-friendly, saying, “We have noticed considerable efforts on the part of health workers to ensure that deaf people who visit various health centres are treated with respect, dignity, care and in most case, given priority, despite the communication gaps.”
But, noted: “All can only be achieved when each patient is treated in the language he or she understands or in his or her most preferred communication mode, be it lip-reading, spoken language, Signed Language, written note or a combination of any of these.”
Mr Duorinaah stated disability inclusion must start with an understanding of the diverse nature of the disability community, their unique differences and strategies developed to identify the most effective ways of meeting their health needs.
He said GNAD would continue to emphasise that vision and ensure the best was achieved and Ghanaian Sign Language mainstreamed in Ghana’s healthcare delivery, taking the cue of international benchmarks and best practices.
“This calls for an effective national policy on healthcare, with deaf people’s most unique needs taken into consideration; all healthcare facilities, including those that provide specialized mental health services, have at least two health workers who are fluent in the Ghanaian Sign language.”
In the absence of that, he urged the Minister of Health to facilitate the engagement of professionally trained Sign language Interpreters at critical health facilities that provide diverse services, including mental health services.
He also appealed to the Ministry not to neglect the Sign Language Interpreters association members, whom the University of Cape Coast, has successfully trained but should recruit and deploy them to crucial facilities.
He said GNAD believed that a strong disability legislation and policy framework would ensure compliance with disability inclusion at all levels and the inclusion of deaf people in mental health services.
To this end, he reminded the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the National Council on Persons with Disability (PWD) to expedite action on the revised PWD Act, Act 715, which is yet to reach Parliament.