The plight of mentally ill persons in our society has been unacceptable and become an issue of greater concern. Some mentally ill persons are often neglected, when all they need sometimes is psychiatric attention and some rehabilitation to get them back on track.
One surprising aspect of this situation is how, as a society, we continue to relegate mental health care to the background, even when statistics made available recently by the Ghana Health Service revealed that about 41 per cent of Ghanaians had one psychological disorder or another.
Indeed, our general neglect of mental health has also reflected in the very frequent media reports of how the psychiatric hospitals themselves are unable to cater for those in their care.
With these, it is not out of place that the Mental Health Authority (MHA) says that the government’s vision of making Accra the cleanest city in Africa cannot be achieved if steps are not taken to clear the streets of mentally challenged people.
According to the authority, activities of mentally challenged persons on the streets contributed to littering and were a threat to pedestrians, since some of them could be violent.
Clearly, the number of the mentally challenged on the streets of Accra does not speak well of a society working towards accelerated development. Every effort must, therefore, be made, not only by the government but all stakeholders, to ensure that these mentally challenged are taken off the streets and given proper attention, be it medical or rehabilitation.
The Daily Graphic thus sees it apt the announcement by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), “Think About a Mentally Challenged Person Near You”, to begin a nationwide sensitisation programme in September this year to educate Ghanaians on mental disorders and their associated dangers.
The NGO is to organise this campaign in collaboration with the MHA to enlighten Ghanaians on some of the behavioural symptoms relating to mental illness. (See story on page 26 of yesterday’s edition.)
We find this campaign, among others, very useful and critical towards improving mental healthcare delivery in the country, as the government alone cannot deliver the needs of the mentally challenged.
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To clear the streets of mentally ill people, for instance, we think the government must provide the needed support systems to the MHA to deliver free mental health care, as stipulated by the Mental Health Act.
It is worrying that in spite of the efforts made by the MHA to advocate the passing of the legislative instrument which will ensure that a mental health levy is established to provide funding, not much has been achieved, leaving the situation more depressing.
But even more worrying is the attitude of society towards the mentally ill, sometimes as a result of ignorance, myths and superstition.
These three factors have resulted in mentally ill persons getting abandoned to their fate at prayer camps, where they are chained and subjected to inhumane treatment, instead of receiving treatment in hospitals.
There are still reports in the media of suicide, sometimes involving children. Unfortunately, their guardians did not recognise the symptoms that all was not well with their wards to prompt them to seek medical attention before the worst happened.
It is our appeal that all individuals and corporate citizens will offer their support for the campaign by “Think About a Mentally Challenged Person Near You” to ensure proper mental health care throughout the country.
While we advocate education on mental illness to be intensified, we believe there is the need for funding to provide the needed logistics and resources for mental health care.