Mental health cases rise after Christmas – MHA calls for measured celebration

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The Mental Health Authority (MHA) has asked the public to be measured in the celebration of the Christmas festivities.

Prof Akwasi Osei, Chief Executive Officer of the Authority, told the Ghana News Agency that, records over the period indicated that “mental health cases rise after festive seasons, especially Christmas and Easter.”

In an interview, he attributed the increment in cases to what he described as the pressure and stress that people went through during festive seasons.

Prof Osei said the tendency of friends and family members abandoning persons with mental health illness during festive seasons also had the potential to exacerbate their condition.

“Normally during festive occasions we see increasing numbers and that is partly because there is pressure and stress on them and family members tend to reject them.

“…others who may not have mental health illness, the occasion becomes a stressful point, and if they are vulnerable of have a predisposition to mental illness, it becomes a trigger factor for them to have mental illness developing,” he said.

Christians all over the world are celebrating Christmas to mark the birth of Jesus Christ.

Prof. Osei said love, care, and protection were the most important things that persons with mental illness required during the festive season.

He appealed to families whose relatives suffered mental illness to desist from locking them up throughout the season, stressing that such practices could worsen their conditions.

He also appealed to the public, corporate organisations, and philanthropists to extend support to persons with mental health illness as well as mental health facilities during and after the festive season.

“We also call on the Government to make the necessary financial allocation to the facilities responsible for them,” Prof. Osei said.

The last random rapid assessment carried out by the MHA about six years ago found about 15,000 mentally ill persons on streets across the country.

There are about 1,600 of them in Accra and Tema alone, the Survey found.

Mental Health Advocates have persistently called on the Government to increase the allocation of funds to mental health institutions and sustainably support people with mental health conditions across the country.

They have also called for the inclusion of drugs for mentally ill patients on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

According to a 2020 study conducted by the Ghana Somubi Programme supported by the Government of the UK, stigma and discrimination related to disability and mental health conditions were widespread in Ghana.

The study identified language around disability and mental health conditions, lack of community and family support, cultural and religious beliefs, and lack of enforcement of laws as major drivers of stigma and discrimination faced by people with disabilities, including those with mental health conditions.

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