Regulate organisations involved in mental illness treatment — Panellist
Dr Sela Adjei, a Researcher and Lecturer at the University of Media, Arts and Communication (NAFTI Campus), explaining a point during the panel discussion

Regulate organisations involved in mental illness treatment — Panellist

A researcher and lecturer at the University of Media, Arts and Communication (NAFTI-Campus), Dr Sela Adjei, has called on the government and relevant authorities to put in place measures to regulate the activities of faith-based organisations (FBOs) and traditional healers involved in mental health treatment.

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He said in spite of the availability of mental health services, the issue of mental illness was still deeply rooted in superstition, cultural and religious beliefs, which made FBOs and traditional healers the preferred alternative for some families of people suffering from such illnesses.

Dr Adjei was speaking on the second day of a roundtable on “Chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Ghana” yesterday.

It was organised by the ARUA Centre of Excellence for Non-Communicable Diseases (ACE-NCDs) and the University of Ghana Hub, in partnership with the SDG Advisory Unit of the Office of the President, on the theme: “Chronicity, care and communities: Developing practical and sustainable NCD interventions.”

The roundtable is part of the first annual national dialogue of the ACE-NCDs, a centre at the University of Ghana.

Research-informed regulations

Dr Adjei said whichever regulation was adopted by the relevant agencies should not be purposefully designed and aimed at clamping down on those traditional and religious healers.

He said the regulations should rather be informed by high quality research which would take into consideration the cultural aspects of the communities and societies involved to ensure that persons suffering from mental illnesses received the best care.

“We need to conduct longitudinal and cross-sectional research across cultural spaces to understand the social constructions of mental health healers because when you go to different societies, they have different ways of dealing with some of these issues and you can’t apply one generalised rule or regulation to all societies,” he explained. 

Fighting stigma

A psychologist, Dr Francis Agyei, underscored the need for increased engagements and education on issues of mental illness, particularly at the community level, in order to curb the stigmatisation faced by such people.

That, he said, was because social stigma, which was what persons with mental illnesses experienced the most in their communities, was very difficult to deal with as a result of socio-cultural and religious underpinnings.

“These boil down to working with communities.

There are times when these communities need some type of education because health researchers have indicated that conditions that are less understood are highly stigmatised, and we even saw it when COVID-19 came,” he added. 

Collective efforts

The Head of the Theatre Department of the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana (UG), Dr Sarah Dorgbadzi, encouraged people to be more accommodative and compassionate towards persons with mental illness because it had the potential to help them recover a lot quicker.

“As an artist, I use my creative works to create a safe haven and generate conversations against discrimination by getting in touch with people who have experiences to tell me how it feels,” she added. 

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