The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that 10 per cent of the population of Ghana, representing 10 out of every 100 persons, have one form of mental disorder or another.
“Thus, with our estimated 31 million population in Ghana, we have an estimated 3.1 million with mental disorders,” the Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, stated when he addressed Parliament last Wednesday.
He was responding to a question by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Sege, Mr Christian Corletey Otuteye, on what the government was doing to address the plight of persons with mental health problems and developments on the health front.
Categories of mental health
Answering, the minister said persons with mental health problems in the country were in four categories.
He mentioned them as those on the street, those at the treatment facilities, including psychiatric hospitals and general health facilities, those in the traditional and faith healing centres, as well as those in their houses and organisations who did not recognise their mental illness or who recognised it but were not doing anything about it.
He indicated that the Mental Health Authority did a rapid assessment-- a mini census-- of persons with severe mental illness on the streets a few years ago and they got 16,000 people in the streets of cities, towns and villages all over the country.
“Mr Speaker, it is clearly established that 41 per cent of Ghanaians have psychological distress - mild, moderate or severe - and this costs the nation seven per cent of GDP loss.
“Mr Speaker, all this is to show that we know the size of the problem and how much it costs the nation,” the MP for Dormaa Central said.
Integrating mental health
Mr Agyeman-Manu told the House that the Ministry of Health and its various institutions - the Mental Health Authority, the Ghana Health Service and others - had human resources to deal with the problem.
“What we are doing now is to spread mental health service nationwide, integrate it into the general health care such that wherever we treat malaria, mental illness can be treated. This will help with access to care,” he said.
To expand mental healthcare delivery, Mr Agyeman-Manu said Agenda 111 of the government would see, among others, two new psychiatric hospitals being built in the northern and middle belts.
The sites for those facilities, he said, had been identified and drawings made, with contractors now being chosen.
The minister explained that until recently, psychiatric medication was not readily available but currently, medications for patients were now available through budgetary allocations and donor support.
“We have trained more psychiatrists, from 10 psychiatrists not long ago to 45 at the moment. Mr Speaker, what is left now is your support to find more money.
“The ministry is working on how to establish a Mental Health Levy which will hopefully solve most of the financial challenges. Increase in budgetary allocation will enable patients on the streets to be taken in small numbers at a time for treatment and sent back to their communities,” he stressed.