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2.3 Million Ghanaians living with various mental health conditions

Ghanaian Population

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that 2.3 million Ghanaians are living with various mental health conditions.  However, although access to treatment is a basic human right, 98 per cent of people living with mental health conditions in the country do not enjoy that right. A Component Manager at the Ghana-European Centre for Jobs, Migration and Development (GEC), Michael Kwaku Yeboah, was speaking at a public forum on mental health in Accra yesterday to mark the global commemoration of this year’s World Mental Health Day.

He said mental health was not all about madness but also took the form of mild, moderate and severe psychological disorders, including fear, stress anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and bipolar disorders, among others. Mr Yeboah stressed that everyone was vulnerable to the conditions, hence the need for all citizens to become advocates for accessible and quality mental health care.

He said more awareness was needed to help dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding mental health conditions which resulted in stigmatisation and other forms of injustice against patients.

World Mental Health Day

The day is marked every October 10 to raise awareness of the condition and garner support for mental health patients. The forum, he said, was organised by GEC and the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ).  “The burden is alarming and shows why dialogues such as these are important.

It is important that stakeholders in the country deliberate on ways to improve access to not just care but quality care, systems and facilities without discrimination and human rights violations. “I wish to appeal to all stakeholders to work harder to dispel myths, reduce stigma and eliminate discrimination related to mental health conditions,” he said.

“A person’s mental state should not influence how they are treated. Their human rights should not be violated, neither should they be discriminated against in their quest to access care. “We at GIZ Ghana are working to shape a future worth living in Ghana, which is why we provide mental health and psychosocial support to our clients at the Ghanaian-European Centre for Jobs, Migration and Development,” he said.

Mr Yeboah said through counselling, psychotherapy sessions, temporary accommodation and health care, GEC ensured successful reintegration for returned migrants, who suffer various mental disorders and conditions along the migration cycle.

“We also provide support for vulnerable persons, including persons with disabilities, unemployed youth and women,” he revealed. Mr Yeboah said since the centre was opened in December 2017, it has provided psychosocial support for about 3,436 persons, including 927 women.

He said it had also encouraged peer-to-peer counselling. “Thus, we have built the capacity of 150 returned migrants and traditional and community leaders to enable them to counsel their peers and community members, respectively.

A Specialist Psychiatrist at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Peggy Asiedu Ekremet, said people living with mental health conditions continued to face human rights violations, which she said affected them physically and socially.

She mentioned the violations to include being beaten at prayer camps in the name of casting out the demon causing what was supposed to be a health condition, being excluded from community life and being stigmatised and discriminated against.

Dr Ekremet said the Mental Health Authority (MHA) was committed to ensuring that every Ghanaian had the right to quality mental health and was executing funds to put in the right systems in every region to curb mental health issues.

She said the MHA was putting together a Crisis Management Team made up of mental health professionals in every region to attend to the emergency mental health needs of people.

She said adolescents and the youth were increasingly being affected as one out of seven had mental health issues, while one out of every five persons below the age of 19 years had a recognisable mental health condition. She added that 50 per cent of adults with mental health conditions developed them as early as age 14.

By: Doreen Andoh & Kezia Asantewaa Osei

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