We must prioritise mental health care

BY: Daily Graphic

Experts estimate that seven out of 10 people in the country have one mental health condition or another.

If this is anything to go by, then we have a serious challenge on our hands as a country. This surely has a direct bearing on our workforce, hence the need to prioritise mental health care by injecting a lot more investment in that direction.

Many individuals decline to seek help for their disorders at the various psychiatric facilities, due to concerns over stigmatisation. This is a worrying scenario which needs to be tackled.

As the world marked Mental Health Day last Sunday, Ghana joined in the commemoration on the theme: "The state of mental health in Ghana: Realigning resources allocation".

We consider the theme appropriate, as it relates to the state of mental healthcare delivery in the country, in an era of competing healthcare needs.

Mental health is a condition that can be addressed with proper and appropriate diagnoses, treatment and psychological services.

It also borders on insecurity, and our inability to effectively offer quality care for mental health patients has socio-economic implications, since such a situation has the potential to scare away tourists and investors because of the insecurity it poses.

That is why the consistent call by the Mental Health Authority (MHA), providers of mental health care in the country, for an increase in the funds allocated to mental health care, which is 1.4 per cent of the total national budget, cannot be ignored.

We at the Daily Graphic see the call as urgent to ensure quality mental health delivery for those who urgently need it.

There is an urgent need to invest heavily in mental health delivery. Aside from the need to rehabilitate and equip specialised institutions, there is also the need for the government to deliberately invest in the training of psychiatric doctors and nurses.

A report that came up at this year’s commemoration of the Mental Health Day that there is no psychologist at the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital is a serious issue, particularly so when we all know the critical role such specialists play in facilities such as psychiatric hospitals.

That is why we join the MHA in calling for more investments in the training of psychiatric nurses, doctors and other supporting staff.

Revelations at a symposium to mark the day in Accra that we do not have enough medication for mental patients in the country should be a source of worry not only to the government but the ordinary citizen as well.

We believe that recent calls that it should be possible for mental healthcare delivery to be assessed in the various health facilities are welcome. Such a move will completely eliminate the stigmatisation that comes with patients accessing mental health services in the three specialist health facilities — the Accra Psychiatric and the Pantang Mental hospitals, both in the
Greater Accra Region, and the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital in the Central Region.

Stigmatisation against mental health patients in the country has reached such an alarming proportion that even those who are cured are unable to fully get integrated back into our society.
Families often shy away from accepting such people, even though they are completely cured.

The Daily Graphic wishes to applaud the management of the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH) for the establishment of the Community Psychiatric Unit at the hospital, which is steadily providing such services to the public.

We are happy to learn that the unit is currently functioning and contributing to total health care, with the hospital able to extend mental healthcare services to over 80 patients.

The Daily Graphic believes that the example of the CCTH is a shining one that needs to be replicated in all our major hospitals, for a start, and possibly roll it over to all government hospitals.

We are saying that the need to resource our mental health facilities and also establish mental health wings in the various health facilities are non-negotiable and should be prioritised to ensure that the mental health does not unnecessarily impact negatively on productivity.