Mindfreedom Ghana has called for greater investment in Ghana’s mental health to help address the myriad of challenges facing people living with psychosocial disorders to restore their dignity and help them enjoy their human rights.
The Director of MindFreedom Ghana, Mrs Janet Amegatcher, who made the call at a workshop in Accra on investment and access to mental health in Ghana, noted that “mental health is one of the most neglected areas of public health.
”She said MindFreedom had been working over the years to operationalize its vision by supporting persons with psychosocial disorders in their treatment and also advocating conditions that would not infringe on their human rights and dignity.
The organisation was established in 2004 and had been the voice of people living with psychosocial disorders to improve mental health and promote the dignity of people living with the condition, as many have been abandoned by their families largely owing to stigma and the cost of sustaining treatments.
The world health Organisation reports that close to one billion people are living with one form of mental disorder, while another three million die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and drugs. “The limited access to quality and affordable mental healthcare before the pandemic has been further diminished due to COVID-19,” Mrs Amegatcher said.
She said the pandemic has disrupted health services as psychiatric institutions face barriers to meeting people face-to-face while many mental health staff had been infected with the virus.
She added, some mental health facilities have also been converted into care facilities for people infected with COVID-19.
“There is indeed a clear connection between mental health and the COVID-19 Pandemic,” she said, as a result, the organisation is implementing a two-year project to help build public awareness to support the fight against the virus.
The project, supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), is on the theme, “Institutional strengthening and awareness-raising to fight void-19 and its impact on people with experiences in Ghana.”
Implementers say it is being done through the development of well-thought-through and innovation programmes that seek to reduce morbidity and mortality due to the coronavirus disease.
The Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Mental health Authority Dr Akwasi Osei backed the urgent call for more financial, logistics and infrastructural investment in the country’s mental health.
He urged the public to pay attention to mental healthcare as accorded to other ailments such as on people facing heart, kidney, liver and other diseases of the body.
“Let us also pay attention to our mental health because there is no health without mental health…the mind and the brain define whether you are alive or not, and not the heart anymore.”He urged government give priority to mental health and suggested Ghana could follow U.S and Australia examples where those countries have Ministers for Mental Health.
”Though he said, Ghana has not reached there yet, it could do that by sensitizing and appreciating what the Government has done so far by giving some attention to mental health.
However, he said, “this is inadequate, talking about psychiatric, just about 15 years ago there were only four psychiatrists in the country with nine in training and about 40 to be trained.
”He described the move as a remarkable achievement “but it is nowhere near what we want. With Ghana’s population of about 30 million we require not less than 100 psychiatrists in the country so with 40 and hoping to get about 80 in the next three years is still nowhere adequate.”
Dr Osei also said the presence of COVID-19 require expansion healthcare facilities from the regional levels to make mental healthcare accessible in the districts and communities, “so that you don’t have to walk more than one-mile to be able to access health care.”
He said the private sector should play a pivotal role in supporting healthcare in the districts and communities and also help them with things that could enhance mental health.
“Traditional and prayer camps should also give attention to mental healthcare,” he added, expressing the belief that greater investment in Ghana’s mental health would increase access and protect the fundamental rights of persons with psychosocial disorders and their wellbeing.