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Armed Forces record 1,300 mental disorders yearly

Soldiers Liberia

Over the past few years, the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) have reported around 1,300 cases of mental health disorders annually. The statistics reveal that alcohol use is the most prevalent disorder, with 70% of the cases involving male officers. These figures are based on post-COVID-19 data recorded from 2021 to last year.

The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), Major General Thomas Oppong-Peprah, who gave out the statistics, has consequently directed the Department of Medical Services of the GAF to embark on a vigorous drive to reduce mental health cases within the forces. “In the Ghana Armed Forces, mental health cases have risen since 2017, and by the close of 2019, a total of 614 cases were recorded for both males and females.

However, post-COVID-19 statistics have shown a marked increase with a total average of about 1,300 cases each year from 2021 to 2023, about 70 per cent being males,” Maj. Gen. Oppong-Peprah said.  “The most worrying indication is that alcohol use disorder is at the top of the list,” the CDS added while addressing a conference to climax the maiden edition of the GAF Men’s Mental Health Awareness Week in Accra yesterday.

The conference was held on the theme: “Promoting the Mental Health of Men in a Gender Sensitive Armed Forces”. Maj. Gen. Oppong-Peprah said mental health was a subject that was hardly discussed within the army even though it remained one of the most devastating conditions of the human race.

He said the detrimental impact of the stigma was far-reaching, thus causing many to develop suicidal tendencies. The refusal of such officers to seek help sometimes resulted in actual suicide. According to the World Health Organisation, men are more than twice as likely to die by suicide than women globally.

The CDS expressed worry that in spite of the high rate of suicide, men had lower reported cases of depression, a condition considered a significant suicidal risk factor. He blamed gender roles as established by society as the major cause of the challenge.

He said a lot of responsibilities were placed on men resulting in excessive pressure on them. Maj. Gen. Oppong-Peprah said though many of them might be reluctant to seek help due to stigmatisation, there were others who might not even be aware of their mental health issues.  He, therefore, urged the personnel to be each other’s keeper while also encouraging them to speak out and express their emotions freely without fear or favour.

“Let us all strive to avoid substance abuse, excessive alcohol, gambling and unnecessary spending, and organise our finances in order to live healthier lives going forward,” the CDS said. A senior clinical health psychologist at the Therapy and Wellness Department of the 37 Military Hospital, Anita Paddy, said globally, one out of every four persons had some form of mental health issue or suffered from a mental condition at a particular point in time.

She said statistics indicated that 450 million people were living with some form of mental health conditions, and only one-third of that number would seek help. Ms Paddy said the ability to cope with adverse life events, functionality in roles, and interpersonal relationships and having a sound mind in a sound body were the key components of mental health.

In order to have a sound mind, Ms Paddy urged the personnel to live a healthy lifestyle by adopting good eating habits and having enough rest. She also identified hobbies and funfair activities as very necessary in maintaining proper mental health. Ms Paddy also urged the personnel to discuss their feelings with their colleagues or seek professional advice on matters before taking action which might end up harming them.

By: Joshua Bediako Koomson

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