Prioritize mental health of the deaf – GNAD

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The Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD) says mental health and well-being of the deaf must be made a national priority to increase access of the deaf to critical information and services and reduce stigma.

Ms. Monica Dowuta, GNAD’s National President, made the appeal on this year’s World Mental Health Day, which is observed on October 10th each year to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilise activities to promote mental health.

She said despite efforts by both state and non-state actors to promote mental health in Ghana, mental health policies had failed to target deaf people, and information and services for deaf people remain inaccessible.

In a study conducted by GNAD to investigate deaf people’s understanding of and obstacles to mental health services in Ghana, more than 40 per cent of deaf people believe mental health was caused by witches.

Less than 30 per cent were aware of any mental health symptoms, and less than 50 per cent aware of the nearest health facility that offers mental health treatment.

The findings also showed that deaf individuals feel treatment for mental health disorders, whether at a hospital, prayer camp, or spiritualist, would not alter the situation.

Commenting on the study, Ms. Dowuta stated that the findings had serious implications for the mental health seeking behaviours of deaf people and that all stakeholders should be worried.

She said GNAD had initiated numerous programmes to empower deaf people to improve their mental health by ensuring access to high-quality information and services.

For example, in Ghana, 240 deaf people are now being trained to increase mental health literacy as a first step toward addressing the deaf community’s mental health needs.
“This is critical because people with high mental health literacy are likely to recognise their condition early, which can aid early detection and prevention,” she added.

Therefore, she urged the government to prioritise the mental health and well-being of Ghanaian deaf people.

She also urged the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Services, National Media Commission, and Mental Health Authority to ensure that all media content on mental health targeting the public met the minimum accessibility level for people with disabilities.

“This must include those with mental health conditions… and the communication needs of the deaf community must be taken as a priority.”

Mr. Ethornam Gblende, Greater Accra Regional Mental Health Coordinator, called for respect for the human rights of people with mental health disorders and continuous public education on mental health as most people with mental illness can be treated.
“Studies show 70 per cent of people with mental illness can get full recovery,” he added.

He also stated how difficult it was to suffer from mental illness and urged people to treat people with mental health illnesses with dignity because everyone was susceptible to mental illness.

“Mental illness makes one depressed; going through a mental health crisis is stressful, it is not easy. It gets even more difficult when one is deaf,” he added. “It is therefore crucial to make the mental health of deaf people a national priority.”

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