World Mental Health Day: Stakeholders call for more investment, awareness

BY: Samuel Duodu

Stakeholders at a forum on mental health service delivery in the country have called for an increase in investment and public awareness of mental illness.

They said that had become necessary following growing negative public perception of and myths and stigmatisation about mental illness, hence the need for the government, the public and civil society organisations to help address those challenges.

The stakeholders made the call in Tamale, the Northern Regional capital, as part of activities commemorating this year's World Mental Health Day yesterday.

It was on the theme: "Mental health in an unequal world".

According to statistics, 98 per cent of people with mental health conditions in the country do not have access to treatment, while the 1.4 per cent of the national budget allocated to mental health had been described as woefully inadequate.

Also, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to claim lives and jobs and livelihood losses, has worsened mental health conditions in the country.

The stakeholders said if mental illness was not given the needed attention, the situation would continue to increase, with related consequences on the socio-economic development of the country.

Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day is commemorated on October 10, each year to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilise efforts to support the sector.

The day was declared in 1992, and this year's commemoration is focused on issues that perpetuate inequality in mental health care in the midst of the global pandemic and the need for collective action from state and non-state actors, as well as individuals, to address such inequality to ensure that people enjoy good mental health.

The forum was organised by Songtaba, a rights advocacy organisation, in partnership with the Ghana Somubi Dwumadie programme — promoting women’s mental health in Ghana, as part of a three-year project targeted at people with disability, including mental health, in northern Ghana.

Speakers

The speakers included the Northern Regional Mental Heath Coordinator (RMHC), Mr. Mumuni Fuseini, and a clinical psychologist and lecturer at the University for Development Studies (UDS), Rev. Dr. Rejoice Enyonam Hoedoafia.

Both of them called for the full implementation of the Mental Health Act (846) that was passed in 2012 to help address the inequality that existed in the sector.

Mr. Fuseini said the staff situation in the sector in the Northern, Savannah and North East regions had improved, with about 242 mental health workers, comprising 165 registered mental health nurses, 67 community mental health officers, five clinical psychiatric officers, two psychiatrists and three clinical psychologists.

He, however, said the inadequate and erratic supply of psychotropic medications from the government remained a challenge, adding that majority of mental health conditions in the three regions of the north were seizure disorders (epilepsy).

For her part, Dr. Hoedoafia said mental illness could be treated and, therefore, called on the public to support people with mental illness, which includes stress and depression.

She also urged the public not to consider mental illness as a spiritual disease but help victims seek proper medical care.

A communique signed and issued by the Executive Director of Songtaba, Hajia Lamnatu Adam, at the end of the forum, entreated the government to fulfill its promise to construct mental health hospitals in the middle and the northern belts of the country to improve access to mental health services.

It further urged the government to constitute a Mental Health Authority board as a matter of urgency.