Dr Samuel Adjorlolo, Head of Department, Mental Health Nursing, University of Ghana, has urged the government to prioritize mental health and scale up interventions to address the problem.
He said it was time for the issue, which had lurked under the shadow of stigma, discrimination, and neglect for far too long, to be brought to the centre of the public health policy arena to promote the mental well-being of the people.
Dr Adjorlolo made the call at a mental health literacy forum organized by the University of Ghana Chapter of the Community and Life Empowerment Advocacy Network, Ghana (CLEAN Ghana).
The forum was on the theme; “Promoting Mental Health Literacy on Campus: The Role of the Student.”
Mental health literacy is knowing and recognising specific mental disorders, their cause, and the knowledge to access mental health services.
The World Health Organisation estimated that 25 per cent of the world’s population suffers from various forms of mental disorders.
WHO also approximates that mental disorders account for at least 160 million lost years of healthy life globally, of which about 30 per cent could be averted.
Dr Adjorlolo said a study conducted among high school students had indicated that about 20 per cent of them had depressive issues, which meant that out of every 10 students, two had issues with depression.
He said mental literacy was thus a vital component of promoting mental health, and the forum sought to emphasize the role students could play to promote knowledge on the matter among students.
Dr Adjorlolo explained that given the importance of the subject matter, students first needed to be knowledgeable to change attitudes.
“To be able to identify and help people with mental health issues, students first needed to know, increase their recognition, and change their attitude towards mental health, to do away with the myths.
“Most people do not have an understanding of mental health issues, in fact, their understanding is no different from a lay person,” he stated.
Dr Adjorlolo cautioned parents against using various choices of words on children that may affect their self-esteem and self-concept.
He pointed out that choices of words contributed to mental health disorders, and parents must be made aware of the consequences of their style of nurturing wards.
“This is important to illustrate the impact of parenting style, and strategies on child upbringing, and behaviours in the future to contribute to the prevention of mental disorders,” he stated.
Dr Adjorlolo said potential parents must also be taught the impact of parenting style so that they do not repeat the mistakes of those who raised them.
He called for a national programme that encourages exercise and healthy eating and alleviates people’s economic situation to prevent mental health issues instead of palliative care.
Dr Johnny Andoh-Arthur, Senior Lecturer University of Ghana, Social Psychologist, and the Founder of CLEAN GH, said most students came to him with various forms of mental issues that made it difficult for them to cope with the normal stresses of life.
He condemned the stigma on mental health, especially among the youth due to the lack of education on the matter and advised advocates to be diligent and compassionate in helping to deal with those issues.