UK mental health professionals in for awareness campaign

BY: Sebastian Syme
 A cultural group from La entertaining the gathering
A cultural group from La entertaining the gathering

Mental health professionals from the United Kingdom are in the country to begin a mental health awareness campaign to support psychiatric institutions in Ghana with facilities and share knowledge experience.

The UK-based professionals from the East London NHS Foundation Trust are using Besstel Child and Adult Psychiatric Health Foundation, a registered charity organisation, as a vehicle to strike a partnership with the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital in Cape Coast.

Launch

A media lunch of the campaign was held in Accra on Friday, October 19, 2018  to announce the upcoming mental health awareness scheduled to take place at the Independence Square on October 27, 2018 and at the Victoria Park on October 28, 2018.

A founder member of the foundation, Ms Stella Nutakor, who is leading the engagement process with the Ghanaian authorities, expressed the commitment of the organisation to support the mental health situation in the country.

She said the foundation was in the process of adopting the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital and equipping it with equipment and other facilities, together with professionals from the East London NHS Trust, to provide continuous support to healthcare service to the facility.

Statistics

About 2.4 million Ghanaians are reported to have experienced one form of mental illness or the other, with only two per cent having access to proper care.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are only 600 qualified psychiatric nurses in the country and the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, which was established in 1906 with the capacity to house 800 patients, now has in excess of 1000 patients.

The three psychiatric hospitals in Ghana – the Accra, Ankaful and Pantang hospitals – are currently confronted with major challenges, including the lack of adequate funds to resource them and the fact that there is only one psychiatric doctor serving the entire country.

Ms Nutakor, who is a psychiatric health nurse, indicated that the foundation planned to raise funds to provide basic resources to give in-patients at the mental health facilities improved care.

Institutional link

She spoke about linking the Ankaful Hospital to the East London NHS Foundation to follow the same model as Butabika in Uganda, which has a link with the East London NHS, and had attracted international attention and support for the Ugandan health facility.

The Butabika-East London link is a multi-disciplinary and an institution-to-institution partnership between the East London NHS Foundation Trust and the Butabika National Referral Hospital in Uganda.

She said the partnership had been instrumental in transforming mental health practice in Uganda, having given it a focus on training and development, service user involvement and advocacy.

The UK team that is in Ghana to offer teaching sessions for staff at the Ankaful Hospital as part of the awareness campaign include Mrs Hilda Blankson, a nutritionist; Ms Marianne Bocton, an occupational therapist, and Ms Susan Fontelo, a pharmacist.

Ownership

A mental health professional based in the UK, Mr Peter Hasler, underscored the need for Ghanaians to own the issue of mental health by providing funding for it without having to depend on the government.

He expressed regret at the deplorable conditions under which patients at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital were living as he recalled his recent visit to that facility, part of which was in a deplorable state.

Mr Hasler, who is currently working on a project on the criminal justice world with focus on the police, the prisons and the judiciary, commended the Besstel Foundation for the initiative to support Ghana’s mental health system.

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