Dr Caroline Amissah, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Authority, says issues of mental health must be prioritised and properly placed in the health sector agenda.
She said the current state of mental health service had been inundated with financial, operational, and logistical challenges, including lack of essential medicines, inadequate infrastructure, and low numbers of professionals.
Dr Amissah made this remarks at a days-seminar organised by the Authority as part of activities to commemorate this year’s World Mental Health Week campaign, in Accra.
The seminar is on the theme, “The state of mental health in Ghana; realigning resource allocation.”
It is aimed at reviewing the omissions and commitment to mental health in Ghana as well as effective utilization of resources.
“We are not getting the attention that we need to get, but we believe that we should be put on the same level playing field with other conditions of health,” she said.
She said many Ghanaians were living with undiagnosed or diagnosed mental illness with some form of disability and thus did not have perfect lives, adding that the negative effect of COVID-19 had also worsened their conditions.
Dr Amissah said the worrying implication of the burden of disability could be higher given the fact that people with mental disorders showed a high degree of comorbidity with other diseases resulting in shortened life expectancy.
The Deputy Chief Executive said the effect of mental health on GDP was estimated around 7 per cent, and global estimate on the burden of mental health disability were significant.
“Research in mental health in Ghana has had unequal attention, and constitutes only about 4 per cent of total health research, and this has impacted on the present estimation of national prevalence of mental disorders,” she added.
Dr Amissh said there was also a treatment gab of 98 per cent, while not less than an estimated 3.1 million of the population experienced varied degrees of mental difficulties.
“The overall implication of these statistics is that there is a significant health burden on individuals, families, communities and the country as a whole,” she said
She informed that although there had been support from government and partners to improve the services, they were not satisfied with the resources available to them, and called for continues support to get to enhance their operations.
“There are a lot of innovations that we can be involved in to help improve the sector. Considering the estimated prevalence of psychological distress, coupled with the current state of suicide and other issues surrounding mental health, we must give ourselves the opportunity and chance to make these services available to get the population utilizing them,” Dr Amissah said.
Dr Kwadwo Obeng, Acting Director of Ankafo Hospital, said the Mental Health Act 846 of 2012 focused on decentralization and integration, hence, the need for mental health care to be provided and integrated into normal service at the district and regional hospitals.
“Moving away from all the services being provided at the psychiatric hospital and what is being provided at the district hospitals is ideal. These are all good things that can help place mental health care at the appreciable level,” he said.
He said there was the need to train various cadres of staff from various facilities and this required the presence of senior staff, exposure to best practices and human rights of patients, and highest quality of treatment possible.
“We must also develop new models of treatment which require investment in competent skilled staff, and capacity building of existing staff. It is also important to do a lot of research in Ghanaian mental health to form the basis for other research, and inform policy decisions,” he added.
Dr Amma Npomaa Boadu, Deputy Director, Mental Health, Ghana Health Service, said to achieve integrated mental health care, policies and plans needed to be incorporated into primary heath care for mental health.
She said there must be advocacy on attitudinal change, adequate training, specialized mental health professionals, and collaboration of government and non-governmental health sectors.
She said “we must build on existing networks, provide fund, train human resource, recruit new staff, make medicines available, supervise and support primary health care staff, introduce effective referral systems among others to achieve full integration.”