We’ll work on Ghana Mental Health LI — Speaker

BY: Emelia Ennin Abbey
 (inset), the Speaker of Parliament, delivering a speech at the stakeholders’ meeting. Picture: ESTHER ADJEI
(inset), the Speaker of Parliament, delivering a speech at the stakeholders’ meeting. Picture: ESTHER ADJEI

The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, has assured stakeholders in mental health care that the House will work towards the passage of the Legislative Instrument (LI) on Ghana’s Mental Health Act.

Prof. Oquaye made the statement at a stakeholders’ meeting in Accra yesterday, at which a number of speakers expressed worry over the delay in the passage of the LI.

He said it was unfortunate that the LI had not been passed for five years, particularly so when its passage would help the Mental Health Authority operate efficiently.

Ghana’s Mental Health Bill was passed by Parliament into law in 2012 (Mental Health Act 2012 (Act 846) but lacks the necessary LI for its smooth implementation to help remove human rights barriers associated with the treatment and upkeep of persons with mental illness.

The meeting was organised by the Mental Health Authority, in collaboration with Johnson and Johnson, a pharmaceutical and cosmetic company.

It was on the theme: “Carving the ideal mental health journey through strategic partnerships”.

Stakeholders at the meeting included heads of public mental health institutions, representatives of non-governmental and civil society organisations.

State of mental health

Speaking on the state of mental health in Ghana, the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, Dr Akwasi Osei, called for the speedy passage of the LI.

He said about 41 per cent of Ghanaians had one form of psychological distress or another, which contributed to seven per cent GDP loss.

“Mental illness reduces lifespan by as much as 12 to 20 years and the high suicide rate of 1,500 deaths per year can be attributed to one mental disorder or another,” he said.

Dr Osei also pointed out that many social vices and heinous crimes were committed by people with mental issues.

“The recent explosion of tramadol abuse is a mental health issue.

40 per cent of all cases at any general hospital have some relationship with mental health problem.

There are over 300 types of mental illnesses,” he said.

He called for the reconstitution of the governing council of the mental health board, as there had not been one in place in the past two years.

Additionally, Dr Osei called for the establishment of a mental health levy and the appointment of district mental health coordinators.

“A Department for International Development (DFID) funding programme which supports the authority will come to an end this December.

 We have no funds to operate with. Only 0.4 to 1.0 per cent of the health budget comes to mental health care, which is grossly inadequate,” he complained.

Priority

The wife of the Vice-President, Mrs Samira Bawumia, who was the special guest at the meeting, called for a collaborative effort to tackle mental health issues.

“Mental illness can affect anyone. People pretend they are okay. Families and friends turn a blind eye. It is attributed to all sorts of superstition or they are in denial, probably in fear of stigmatisation, until it is too late,” she said.

Mental health, she said, was not only a challenge for those who suffer from mental illness but also their dependants and the society at large.

“We cannot be unconcerned and we need to act now. As a nation, it is imperative that we make mental health care a priority,” she stressed, and called for awareness creation on mental health and care.

The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, has assured stakeholders in mental health care that the House will work towards the passage of the Legislative Instrument (LI) on Ghana’s Mental Health Act.

Prof. Oquaye made the statement at a stakeholders’ meeting in Accra yesterday, at which a number of speakers expressed worry over the delay in the passage of the LI.

He said it was unfortunate that the LI had not been passed for five years, particularly so when its passage would help the Mental Health Authority operate efficiently.

Ghana’s Mental Health Bill was passed by Parliament into law in 2012 (Mental Health Act 2012 (Act 846) but lacks the necessary LI for its smooth implementation to help remove human rights barriers associated with the treatment and upkeep of persons with mental illness.

The meeting was organised by the Mental Health Authority, in collaboration with Johnson and Johnson, a pharmaceutical and cosmetic company.

It was on the theme: “Carving the ideal mental health journey through strategic partnerships”.

Stakeholders at the meeting included heads of public mental health institutions, representatives of non-governmental and civil society organisations.

State of mental health

Speaking on the state of mental health in Ghana, the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, Dr Akwasi Osei, called for the speedy passage of the LI.

He said about 41 per cent of Ghanaians had one form of psychological distress or another, which contributed to seven per cent GDP loss.

“Mental illness reduces lifespan by as much as 12 to 20 years and the high suicide rate of 1,500 deaths per year can be attributed to one mental disorder or another,” he said.

Dr Osei also pointed out that many social vices and heinous crimes were committed by people with mental issues.

“The recent explosion of tramadol abuse is a mental health issue.

40 per cent of all cases at any general hospital have some relationship with mental health problem.

There are over 300 types of mental illnesses,” he said.

He called for the reconstitution of the governing council of the mental health board, as there had not been one in place in the past two years.

Additionally, Dr Osei called for the establishment of a mental health levy and the appointment of district mental health coordinators.

“A Department for International Development (DFID) funding programme which supports the authority will come to an end this December.

 We have no funds to operate with. Only 0.4 to 1.0 per cent of the health budget comes to mental health care, which is grossly inadequate,” he complained.

Priority

The wife of the Vice-President, Mrs Samira Bawumia, who was the special guest at the meeting, called for a collaborative effort to tackle mental health issues.

“Mental illness can affect anyone. People pretend they are okay. Families and friends turn a blind eye. It is attributed to all sorts of superstition or they are in denial, probably in fear of stigmatisation, until it is too late,” she said.

Mental health, she said, was not only a challenge for those who suffer from mental illness but also their dependants and the society at large.

“We cannot be unconcerned and we need to act now. As a nation, it is imperative that we make mental health care a priority,” she stressed, and called for awareness creation on mental health and care.

Care for patients

The Country Manager of Johnson and Johnson, Ms Priscilla Owusu-Sekyere, said Janssen, Ghana, the pharmaceutical arm of Johnson and Johnson, was fostering mental health partnerships to ensure that no patient was left behind.

She said Janssen was leading efforts at transforming mental health care by raising awareness, reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, building the capacity of healthcare professionals and improving access to health care.

On building the capacity of healthcare professionals, Ms Owusu-Sekyere said Janssen had so far sponsored 18 students to undergo a year’s training in mental healthcare delivery and improving access to health care.

“We must work together as stakeholders to change public perception,” she said.

The Country Manager of Johnson and Johnson, Ms Priscilla Owusu-Sekyere, said Janssen, Ghana, the pharmaceutical arm of Johnson and Johnson, was fostering mental health partnerships to ensure that no patient was left behind.

She said Janssen was leading efforts at transforming mental health care by raising awareness, reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, building the capacity of healthcare professionals and improving access to health care.

On building the capacity of healthcare professionals, Ms Owusu-Sekyere said Janssen had so far sponsored 18 students to undergo a year’s training in mental healthcare delivery and improving access to health care.

“We must work together as stakeholders to change public perception,” she said.

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