Dr. Kwasi Osei
Dr. Kwasi Osei

Madness Is More Complex Than That, Dr. Osei

The promise by the Director of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital (aka Asylum) to get all mentally challenged persons off our village, town and city streets all across the country by the end of 2018, rings strikingly similar to President John Dramani Mahama’s assurance to Ghanaians that their present dire economic straits would be effectively consigned to history by the end of this year (See “No Mental Patients On Streets By 2018 Graphic Online / Ghanaweb.com 8/3/14).


Chief Executive Officer of EDAIF, Dr. Barfour Osei. ?
Chief Executive Officer of EDAIF, Dr. Barfour Osei.
Dr. Kwasi Osei
Dr. Kwasi Osei

It is not clear whether Dr. Kwasi Osei’s promise is fully backed by the newly appointed Health Minister, Dr. Agyemang-Mensah, or it is simply the good wish of the nation’s chief psychiatrist. For knowing what I know about the ramshackle and abjectly bleak system of general healthcare in the country, such ponitifical pronouncement could not be more than a pipe-dream. It sounds like a pipe-dream because Dr. Osei does not present his audience, or the Ghanaian public, with any comprehensive plan for such an epic undertaking, except to indicate the establishment of a purported program called “Operation Clear the Streets.”


To be certain, the latter sounds more like the name of an “Abongo-type” taskforce, rather than a deliberate and systematically conceived and crafted plan by which mental patients removed from our streets would be rehabilitated and gainfully reintroduced into the larger society. The chief psychiatrist, for instance, does not indicate whether treated mental patients would be afforded viable vocational and professional skills that would enable them to make a decent living, once they are released and certified as mentally sane to be able to fully participate in our national life.


In other words, the problem that Ghanaians have with the mentally unsound is least of all about the sheer presence of a critical mass of this breed of socioculturally disadvantaged citizens. It has more to do with whether effective measures can be put in place to ensure that those medically and/or scientifically classified as mentally unsound are not a serious threat and danger to society and themselves. I am also not certain about the soundness of the criteria by which the behavioral description of “insanity” is appropriated by Dr. Osei and his professional associates and minions.


For instance, asked by a Graphic Online reporter how the “Operation Clear the Streets” taskforce members are able to identify who qualifies to be defined as mentally challenged and then taken off the streets, the Chief Psychiatrist was reported to have flippantly and vaguely responded that “The mentally challenged are spotted based on the condition in which they are found.” Implicit among such conditions are the shabby dressing and dirty and tattered clothes of the targets of street removal. Also, people found half-naked or completely naked on the streets, as well as people picking up food to eat from garbage cans.


From the foregoing, it clearly appears that the work of Operation Clear the Streets taskforce is based in part on guesswork. If so, it may very well be illegal. For one, a person roaming the streets who is shabbily dressed, as even my own non-college-schooled wife aptly pointed out upon reading the news report, may well just be homeless and unemployed. Have Dr. Osei and his associates thought out a long-term plan by which to permanently house these societally neglected kinsmen and women of ours?


What is more, wouldn’t it make far better sense for the taskforce to attempt to locate some family members and relatives of the targets of removal before proceeding to sedate or administer nerve-calming drugs to these suspected mental patients? Then also, who takes responsibility when a suspected mental patient gets fatally overdozed? Or a target of removal and rehabilitation is inadvertently administered the wrong medication or is injured in the process?


Dr. Osei also significantly notes that some regions in the country have no mental hospitals and/or clinics, and that in such cases private homes would be rented for the purpose of rehabilitating these patients. Curiously, he does not tell his sympathetic audience exactly how long these private facilities would be leased and at what expenditures. And also why the deep pockets who are reported to be staunchly behind the program do not seem prepared to underwrite the establishment of mental asylum facilities and/or clinics all over the country?


After all, hasn’t it been said time and again that “A sound mind in a sound body equals a productive and progressive nation”?


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