Government must scale up mental health services amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Covid

The Mental Health Society of Ghana (MENSOG) has called on the Government to scale up mental health services in all parts of the country to help curb COVID-19 related mental health complications.

Madam Esenam Drah, Projects Coordinator of (MENSOG) who made the call at a media engagement in Accra, said the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in Ghana could be enormous due to weak health care systems.

She said COVID-19 had the tendencies to cause increased levels of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorders in recovered patients and even people who may not have contracted the virus.

To that end, MENSOG and the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations (GFD) recommended that the subject of mental health and COVID-19 be included in school’s curriculum as a test free course, to enable students to learn how to take care of their mental health during a pandemic.

The two organisations, also recommended that mental health and psychosocial support services be integrated into the pandemic response and coordinated nationally, during and after the pandemic.

They said the Government should also collaborate with the survivors of COVID-19 induced mental health challenges and provide them with some psychosocial services and alternative livelihood supports.

They suggested that the Government worked with religious and traditional authorities in disseminating information and education on mental well-being while holding virtual mental health services.

The two institutions also asked the Government to train community health workers quickly to provide mental health education, screening and counselling services and also provide toll-free mental health helplines for the public.

They said psychological services must also be provided at the various healthcare centres within the communities and the cost absolved by the state.

Mr Christopher Agbega, COVID-19 Project Coordinator for GDF, also called for the meaningful engagement of Persons Living with Disability (PLWD) in Government policies related to the pandemic, to ensure that issues of PLWD such as the inability of persons with respiratory problems to wear a mask, and the inability of persons with low vision to access handwashing facilities were well targeted at the national level.

He said the uncertainty of returning to normal life and numerous deaths that were avoidable under usual circumstances were likely to increase people’s risk of developing long-term mental health issues.

Mr Agbega said mental health conditions were likely to begin and assume unimaginable proportions now and even after the pandemic was over, with experiences of the disease, breakdown of social support and stigma being a possible cause of short-term mental health problems during the pandemic while factors such as economic losses could potentially cause long-term mental health issues, as extreme poverty exacerbates mental illness.

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals. In rare cases, they are what scientists call zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has become one of the leading causes of mental health conditions partly due to the disease experience, social distancing, stigma, discrimination and job losses in Ghana which is one of the countries that have been affected by the pandemic.

Health care workers, patients with COVID-19, children, women, youth, and the elderly are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, increased depression, distress, insomnia, suicidal tendencies and high rate of substance use disorders among others.

In Ghana, evidence suggests that even frontline health care workers, who are directly involved in the collection of samples, diagnosis, treatment, and care of patients during an outbreak are also at higher risk of developing psychological distress and mental health symptoms.

Anxiety, distress, depression, fear of the spread of infection to family, friends and colleagues, anger and confusion are some of the immediate psychological impacts documented among frontline health care workers, the GNA gathered.

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