Mental health encompasses our cognitive, behavioural and emotional wellbeing and it can affect daily life, relationships, physical health, as well as anyone at any age.
Experts say that like any disease, all people have the potential to develop mental health problems, no matter one’s age, sex or status.
Current data suggest that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives and that around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions.
This places mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
In Ghana, it is estimated that of the about 30 million people, more than 850,000 are suffering from severe mental disorder, while over 10 per cent are suffering from moderate-to-mild mental disorder.
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Other conservative figures say about 41 per cent of the population have one psychological distress or another.
Unfortunately, the treatment gap is 98 per cent of the total population expected to have a mental disorder.
Interestingly, whereas most people erroneously think that mentally ill patients are the wild-looking, dirty people around the streets, common mental disorders include simple phobias such as the fear of people’s judgement on others, sudden paralyzing terror or a sense of imminent disaster, or something horrible or frightening that is experienced or witnessed.
Other issues about mental illness are very revealing. Mental illness reduces lifespan by as much as 12 to 20 years, is accountable for about 1,500 deaths per year and contributes to seven per cent loss in Gross Domestic Product of the country.
It is because of these that nations around the world spend resources on mental health as a way of ensuring good health for the people.
Ghana has not fared badly in this, but since 2012 when the Ghana Mental Health Bill was passed into law, there is yet to be a Legislative Instrument (LI) in place to see to its smooth implementation.
But, yesterday, the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye, assured stakeholders in mental health care that Parliament would work towards the passage of the LI.
At long last the Daily Graphic would want to join other concerned Ghanaians to heave a sigh of relief that the call for an LI on mental health has received the necessary attention.
We want to take the Speaker by his word because we believe that the presence of the LI will, to a large extent, help remove the numerous human rights barriers to mental health to allow for mental patients to receive the needed treatment and rehabilitation.
We also add our voice to the call by the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority for the immediate reconstitution of the Governing Council of the Mental Health Board which has been non-existent for the past two years.
In the absence of a governing council, we wonder which body has been developing something as important as a broad directional policy for the board, as the governing council, among other things, is responsible for establishing the organisation's strategic direction and priorities, regularly scanning the external operating environment to ensure that its strategic direction remains both appropriate and achievable, as well as monitoring and evaluating organisational performance.
We think as a country we have not done enough for mental health, perhaps because we have wrongly assumed that mental illness is the problem of a few. But everybody is at risk and so let us pay immediate attention to the area.