Changing Minds Ghana Ltd, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), is calling for a change of attitude towards mental health patients to stem the tide of suicide in the country.
The Chief Executive Officer of the NGO, Pastor Alex Kufour, who is leading the advocacy, said mental health patients were dehumanised and blamed that for the upsurge of suicide cases in the country.
Respect human rights
In an interview in Accra on the upsurge of suicide cases in the country, he said: “We need to give mental patients dignity and respect as human beings.”
“We have to recognise that they are human beings who have fallen ill,” Pastor Kufour said.
He condemned pastors who dehumanised mental patients by chaining them and called for the prosecution of such pastors.
Pastor Kufour, a pastor of the Church of God Prophesy International in the UK, said his organisation was in a position to help bring the rate of suicide in the country to the barest minimum.
He said the first step was the need to make the public aware that the mentally ill were not different from other patients.
He said there were people who needed somebody just to share their problems with “and that would calm them down and prevent them from committing suicide”.
He noted that because of the breakdown of the extended family system, there were people with challenges who had no one to talk to.
Consequently, Changing Minds is looking at recruiting volunteers who are nurses, doctors, professional counsellors and others who would go through an induction programme.
He said volunteerism seemed to be dying, for which reason people wanted to be paid for everything they did, and said he hoped to revive that spirit among the public.
Pastor Kufour said the organisation would seek support from individuals, organisations and institutions to help build recreational and rehabilitation centres where people who were depressed could visit to relax and seek help.
He said it would also seek support from the telcos for telephone lines for the volunteers to use to link up with depressed members of the public for counselling.
“We seek to strike a partnership with institutions, banks and religious bodies to create such centres at different places throughout the country to promote easy interaction between the volunteers and those who need help,” he added.
Mental Health Authority Act
Touching on the Mental Health Act, Pastor Kufour said it was unfortunate that it was passed four or five years ago but was still waiting for the Legislative Instrument (LI) to give it legal backing.
Pastor Kufour called on society and the media to also champion a campaign to help mental health patients, stressing that the media should not just be interested in publishing suicide cases.