The strategy, crafted by BasicNeeds Ghana, an NGO, with support from the UK’s Department for International Development (DIFD), will see teachers in some 30 districts trained as mental health awareness vanguards under the project dubbed-Strengthening Community Mental Health Services to Improve Women and Youth Mental Health in Ghana.
BasicNeeds Ghana is a wing of BasicNeeds International, which works to improve lives of people living with mental illness and epilepsy.
Badimak Peter Yaro, Executive Director of BasicNeeds Ghana told participants from the Krachi-East, Krachi-West, Krachi-Nchumuru, Nkwanta-South and Nkwanta-North at a workshop at Nkwanta on Thursday that, there were deep-rooted wrong perceptions about mental health that needed to be corrected.
He said there were also facts either known but unappreciated, or not known at all about mental health, that needed to be grasped.
“If you do not know, you are not likely to address the issue,” Mr Yaro stated.
The participants, who were schooled on ‘Common Mental Health Disorders and Human Rights Issues’, were mainly School Health Education (SHEP) Coordinators.
Mr Yaro said between 15 and 25 per cent of women in Ghana suffer from some form of depression, many triggered by pregnancy and childbirth and marital pressures.
He said mental health awareness among teachers should result in they (teachers) being able to “notice signs in the young ones that could degenerate into mental sicknesses at the end of the road”.
He said teachers had a good connect with society through their pupils and other associates.
Mr Yaro said mental health clubs will be established in schools to increase mental health awareness among the pupils and students.
Courage Ahorlu Dzage, Volta Regional Focal Person on Mental Health in a presentation on Common Mental Health Disorders said some of the signs in school pupils and students that needed to be worked on included aggression, isolation, delusion, fixation and neglect of personal hygiene.
He said it was important teachers helped to tackle stigmatization faced by the mentally ill, including epileptics.
Mr Dzage said teachers must help educate the public on treatment opportunities and facilities available.
A participant gave account of pupils rushing out of a classroom through windows, abandoning a colleague, jerking from an epileptic seizure, as an example of ignorance, which teachers must brace up to fight.
Inusah Iddrisu, Public Education Officer and Investigator, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) said Ghana’s constitution and international statutes ratified by the country, conferred full personal rights on people with mental illnesses, just as other citizens.
Stephen Tsuiatorfe, Nkwanta-South District Director of Education who chaired the opening ceremony of the two-day workshop conceded educators needed a lot of education to identify mental health issues.