Mr Kenneth A. AE-Ngibise, a Research Fellow, Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC), has called on government to pay significant attention to mental health, invest in it and incorporate it into primary healthcare.
He said research conducted suggested that mental health had been neglected from the top for years and contributed to the barriers in implementing the Mental Health Act 2012 (Act 846).
The aim of the Act is to promote the rights and quality treatment of persons with mental disorders and funding of mental health services, among others.
The barriers, he said, included under-funding, adding that: “Mental health is supposed to be free and so doesn’t generate income. So why will government invest in something that will not bring back money? That has been a challenge that needs to be tackled.”
Mr AE-Ngibise said the KHRC was conducting a study to ascertain how much the nation lost both socially and economically to paying little and no attention to mental health.
He also underscored the need to build modules and encompass conventional health care with traditional and faith-based organisational healings.
“Many people will first go to traditional healers before they go to medical doctors for mental health. This is because they say they have gone there, and it worked for them. We, therefore, need to find how to work collaboratively with them.
“Some faith-based organisations do well by trying to counsel suspected mentally troubled persons and refer them to psychiatric health personnel when they detect any physical illness and sometimes invite the health personnel to their prayer camps to administer drugs,” he added.
The Research Fellow said mental health was quite common, especially depression, but could, however, be diagnosed only after being sustained for two weeks.
“A lot of people have mental illnesses such as depression, which is common but they don’t know they have those. When you get to work and feel you aren’t okay, productivity comes down, and it also affects everyone around you at work, and even at home and in society at large.”
Mr AE-Ngibise bemoaned the stigma that mental health patients were subjected to, explaining that, victims failed to go to public places and even outside their homes for the fear of the disgrace.
“Because of stigma, people don’t even come out of their homes. For example, if I want a woman to marry, I may not go to marry one from a home which has mental patients because I may believe its genetic. It indeed affects society and people don’t want to get close to such people,” he stated.
He mentioned work pressure, relationship and marital challenges, and poverty as some of the key contributors to depression.
The Kintampo Health Research Centre, located in the middlebelt of Ghana in the Bono East region, is one of three field research centres of the Research and Development Division of Ghana Health Service established in 1994.
It provides a platform for research into diseases that are of public health importance nationally, and shares results of findings with appropriate sectors of the health ministry and internationally, and gives recommendations for policy direction.