Dr Collins Agyemang Badu, the President of the Ghana Psychological Association, has urged Government to prioritise investment in mental health; as part of efforts to provide quality mental health care delivery in the country.
He said investing in mental health was crucial for Ghana to be able to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Universal Health Coverage.
“Mental health and wellness service is now a human right issue,” Dr Agyemang Badu, stated in his presentation at the Mental Health Authority’s (MHA) Maiden International Research Conference in Accra on theme “Prioritizing Mental Health and Wellness Research in Ghana: Supporting a Paradigm Shift”.
He said the Mental Health Act 2012 (Act 846) activated one of the key aspects and provisions of the Law, the setting-up of MHA, and that the Authority was an agency under the Ministry of Health charged with the responsibility of strategizing and charting a proactive framework aimed at improving quality mental health care in Ghana.
Speaking on the topic, “Mental Health Act/Authority- 10 Years in Retrospect: The Gains, Challenges and Feedforward”, Dr Agyemang Badu said since the passage of the Mental Health Act in 2012 and the establishment of the MHA, it had eenhanced training/recruitment emphasis on Community Mental Health Care and increased number of practicing psychiatrists (from 12 to about 62).
He said it had brought about more advocacy and non-governmental collaborations; adding that there was subtle reduction on Mental Health stigma and reduced number of those with severe mental illness on the streets.
He also mentioned increased health seeking behaviours, proposed inclusion of Mental Health Care incorporation in National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), promotion of Clients Human Right and strengthened international collaborations.
Other gains he cited included active push on repeal of some laws of Ghana (Suicide Law), and steady engagement in National Developmental and Policy-Driven Discussions.
On the way forward, he called for the revision of the Mental Health Law and the Legislative Instrument (LI) – Government/MHA Board.
He also advocated for increased research in the area of mental health to ensure that decisions and policies were evidence based.
Touching on Holistic Mental Health (Medicalization), Dr Agyemang Badu said mental health in Ghana was overly-tilted toward treatment (largely psychiatric focussed); stating that MHA should incorporate and prioritize prevention and promotion of quality mental health.
With regards to strategic recruitment, he urged that MHA to consider recruiting active researcher-practitioners within the broader framework of Active and contemporary mental health discourse and to welcome inputs from relevant actors in the mental health space on such recruitment patterns.
Concerning pandemic outbreaks, Dr Agyemang Badu said the COVID-19 pandemic had had an unprecedented impact on health systems in many countries across the globe.
“The next pandemic in Ghana, we should fear is that of increased mental illnesses and poor mental health challenges,” he said.
“If our treatment gap is about 90 per cent, in my estimation, we might be losing close to 15 – 20 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), which was likely more than seven per cent as previous researchers pivoted.
“Let us join hands in ‘re-thinking Ghana’s approach to ensuring stigma-free, accessible, evidenced-based, investment-attractive, and quality mental health services in Ghana. There is no health without mental health,” he stated.