UK Charity holds campaign on mental health in Ghana

BY: Sebastian Syme
Dr Attard making a presentation at the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital
Dr Attard making a presentation at the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital

A mental health awareness campaign has been launched in Accra and Cape Coast to sensitise Ghanaians to take mental health issues seriously and to educate them on the signs and symptoms of the condition.

A United Kingdom (UK)-based charity organisation, Besstel Child and Adult Psychiatric Health Foundation, brought a team of psychiatric health professionals from the United Kingdom to embark on the campaign to mark the beginning of a British support for Ghana’s mental health situation.

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The team includes a psychiatric forensic consultant, an occupational therapist, a pharmacist and a nutritionist from the East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT). They were in the country to educate Ghanaians on the various forms of psychiatry and the signs and symptoms to look for in people with such conditions.

Campaign

In Accra, the launch began with a float from Adenta through some principal streets and ended at the Independence Square, while the Cape Coast event took place at the Victoria Park.


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Besstel Foundation, which has a branch in Ghana, seeks to support Ghanaian mental health patients in both countries to overcome their condition.

Rationale for charity

Addressing the gathering during the campaign, the Lead Founder of the Besstel Foundation, Ms Stella Awuradjoa Nutakor, said she realised that mental health awareness was not prioritised in Ghana, for which reason she established the foundation to help bring about a change in attitude.

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A UK-based community psychiatric nurse, Ms Nutakor, said she felt the need to bring her experience in psychiatry to bear on improving mental health in the country and to get her colleagues from the UK to come on board to support her efforts.

Ms Nutakor indicated that she was negotiating with the ELFT to establish a partnership with mental health institutions in the country through which support in terms of funding, exchange programmes and donations could be channelled from the UK to Ghana.

Legislative Instrument

The Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, Dr Kwasi Osei, reiterated the need for the passage of a Legislative Instrument (LI) to empower the authority to be able to internally generate its own funds through levies.

He emphasised that the absence of an LI was impeding the smooth operations of the authority to effectively perform its functions and called on the Attorney-General, in whose office the LI was currently laid, to expedite action on it.

Dr Osei appealed to Ghanaians to desist from stigmatising people with mental health conditions and rather show them love.

Signs and symptoms

Dr Stephen Attard, a Forensic Psychiatric Consultant with the ELFT who spoke on the ‘Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health’, said the condition had been projected to be the leading cause of illnesses in the world by 2030.

He indicated that 300 million people in the world ???suffered from Mental???, and that research was currently ongoing to establish the exact diagnosis to completely cure mental health illness.

An Occupational Therapist with ELFT, Ms Marianne Bolton, spoke on the activities mental patients should be engaged in during their recovery process.

She said the kind of activities patients undertook during the period could either help them recover properly or could make them suffer a relapse.

Ms Bolton urged those whose relations and friends suffered from mental illness to engage them in productive activities to accelerate their healing process.

Ms Susana Fontelo, the pharmacist on the team, and Ms Hilda Blankson, a nutritionist, also took turns to speak on the need for patients to take their medication seriously and on the kind of nutrition that would help in mental health recovery.

Ankaful session

At the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital in Cape Coast in the Central Region, the team held teaching sessions to share experiences from the UK mental health sector.

The foundation donated a medication fridge, blood pressure machines, used clothing, a printer and a photocopier machine to the hospital.

Ms Nutakor expressed her commitment to support in improving mental health in Ghana.