Dr Akwesi Osei, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mental Health Authority (MHA), has called for increased investments and attention to mental healthcare in Ghana.
He said resources were urgently needed to relocate mentally ill persons on the streets to fit-for-purpose facilities and also ensure that the needs of persons with mental illness and mental health care workers are well catered for.
Dr Osei told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview in Accra on Monday that mental healthcare financing in Ghana was still a problem as the three psychiatric hospitals; Ankaful, Pantang and the Accra Psychiatric hospitals, were not getting adequate releases from the government to facilitate their smooth operation.
He said although the financial releases from the government were more timely and frequent than it used to be three years ago, the amount released was still not enough and “nowhere near what is adequate”.
“The MHA for instance, has received about GHS 1.2 million for the first quarter of this year, while the various psychiatric hospitals have received a financial release of GHS 8 million each for the same period, this is better than previously but we still have a huge gap in mental healthcare financing,” he said.
Dr Osei said there had always been a huge deficit in financing hence the need to quickly institute the mental health Levy to ensure that mental health care did not solely dependent on releases from the Ministry of Health.
“All along, we do not have the needed structures and medications to provide efficient mental healthcare, more than ever, we all need to change the approach and lobby for the levy to be established and agreed to be taxed into the levy,” he stated.
He said the MHA was considering negotiating for the inclusion of mental healthcare services on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to ensure that it was well subsidized and accessible to all.
It is estimated that of the 21.6 million Ghanaians, 650,000 are suffering from a severe mental disorder and a further 2,166, 000 are suffering from a moderate to mild mental disorder.
The Chief Psychiatrist said mental health was just as important as an individual’s physical health, stressing that mental health must be an integral part of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). “Nobody should be denied access to mental health care because she or he is poor or lives in a remote place,” he added.
Dr Osei said mental health was not an individual’s enterprise, and called on all Ghanaians to contribute their quota and invest their time, resources and priorities for greater access.
“We need to understand that just like malaria, mental health can affect any one and can be treated,” he added.
Commenting on the state of mental health care in Ghana, he said Ghana had made strides to improve the situation although more needed to be done.
“Presently, we have about 40 psychiatric doctors who are unevenly distributed across the country, as against 10 in the past, 20 clinical physiologists across the country and six occupational therapists with mental health services provided in all regional health care facilities. We hope to ensure that mental health services are provided in the district hospitals in no time,” he said.
Mental health according to the World Health Organisation is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Conditions such as stress, depression and anxiety can affect a person’s mental health and disrupt a person’s routine.
Signs of mental illness includes long-lasting sadness or irritability, extremely high and low moods, excessive fear, worry, or anxiety, social withdrawal, dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits.