Mr George Yaw Boakye, the Ahafo Regional Minister has emphasised the need to prioritise mental health care services to enable citizens to cope with the normal stresses of life to work and contribute to Ghana’s socio-economic development.
He reiterated mental health issues had been neglected and allowed to be suppressed by stigmatisation and discrimination for a long time, saying mental disorders had been responsible for about 30 per cent of the world disability burden.
This was in a speech read on his behalf at the opening of a three-day Ahafo Regional Health Directorate inception meeting for the Ghana World Health Organisations (WHO) Director General’s Special Initiative for Mental Health (SIMH) at Goaso in the Ahafo Region.
The SIMH, launched in July 2022, is a five-year project funded by WHO to support system transformation and to scale up mental health services to attain Universal Health Coverage to ensure access to quality and affordable care for mental health conditions in 12 priority countries.
The initiative is envisioned to achieve the highest standard of mental health and well-being to ensure 5.2 million more Ghanaians had access to integrated, quality, person-centered mental health care that their rights were upheld.
The project is being implemented in the Savannah, Western North, Oti and Ahafo Regions of Ghana.
Mr Boakye observed Ghana had the most comprehensive mental health legislation, but its mental health care system was faced with many challenges, including infrastructural constraints, acute human resource shortages, social services challenges, research and information system, financial challenges and considerable institutional stigmatisation.
”Access to mental health care in Ghana was poor, with a treatment gap of about 72 per cent, relative to the WHO’s benchmark of one Psychiatrist to100,000 population, Ghana’s Psychiatrist population ratio is 0.058 per 100,000 population, and 0.065 psychologists per 100,000 population”, he stressed.
Dr. Bernard Ziem, the Acting Ahafo Regional Director of Health Services said the psychiatric nurse-to-population ratio in the region was one to 8,000.
He added the region had one psychologist, with 75 mental health officers working in various facilities at varied levels of the health care system, saying this had led to the need for strict adherence to integration policy to be able to reach out to the needs of the people.
Dr. Ziem said most people including health care workers were exposed to stress which had a higher potential to trigger mental health conditions of which depression was a leading disability case worldwide.
He noted research indicated one out of every five people in their lifetime would develop mental health illness, hence individuals, communities and organisations must take keen interest in mental health issues to promote and enhance their holistic and general well-being.
Dr. Ziem said the region in its attempt to render quality mental health service was bedeviled with challenges such as the erratic supply of psychotropic drugs, inadequate motorbikes for community mental health activities and capacity building for mental health officers, while there was low support generally to carry out mental health activities.