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Mental disorder among children on the rise

BY: Felicia Kwarteng

Data available from the two main psychiatric hospitals in the country, the Pantang and Accra Psychiatric hospitals, indicate that there is an increase in the number of children reporting to hospital with mental health challenges.

The trend is raising concerns among stakeholders in the mental health delivery system who have called on the government to invest more in mental health delivery.

At a workshop to discuss disability and mental health in children in Accra last Thursday, an occupational therapist at the Pantang Hospital in Accra, Ms Ann Sena Fordie, called on the government to help improve mental healthcare delivery by supporting it with more human and infrastructural resources.

She said such investments were critical since most public mental health service facilities were in a deplorable state.

“The mental health sector faces a lot of challenges when it comes to infrastructure, finances and personnel, and so we are calling on the government to include mental health services in the national health insurance scheme and also ensure that appropriate funds are disbursed to the right places to help improve mental health services in the country,” she said.

The workshop was organised by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Participatory Development Associates (PDA), and it was on the theme: “Inclusive Development for All”.

Conditions

Data from the Pantang Psychiatric Hospital shows that between 2017 and 2019, 1,419 children reported to the hospital with various mental health conditions.

Between 2015 and September this year, the Accra Psychiatric Hospital also had 13,731 children reporting to the facility with various mental disorders.

A documentary put together by the PDA team, entitled “The State of Child and Adolescent Mental Health in Ghana”, emphasised that everyone was susceptible to a mental health condition.

It highlighted some of the mental health conditions to include depression, emotional trauma and seizures.

It was conveyed in the documentary that mental conditions in most adults might have started in their childhood and explained that when mental illness began in children and nothing was done about the situation, it developed into different types of mental diseases that affected their lifestyle. 

Mental health

Additionally, the documentary pointed out that mental illness was common in children and adolescents and started from childhood between the ages of six and 24 years.

It further stressed that adolescent mental health ought to be taken seriously and that most parents disregarded the mental health of their children until it had developed into more serious conditions that could not be cured but only managed.

COVID-19 challenges

In a presentation on the challenges children with disability and mental health faced during the COVID-19 lockdown, the National Co-ordinator of Inclusion Ghana, an NGO, Mr Auberon Jeleel Odoom, said the lockdown affected children greatly as they were restricted from going about their normal daily routines which made them prone to getting infected with the virus, since they did not understand why there were restrictions and the reasons they should adhere to them.

“The government assumed that everyone was going to benefit from the restrictions and the measures that were put in place. However, it was not so with people with special needs and disabilities who were thus made more vulnerable and prone to the disease,” he said.

Technology

In his speech on how the PDA was working to support and improve child protection, the Managing Director of PDA, Mr Edem Agbe, said the NGO had introduced a scientific tool called Child Abuse Tracker to track all kinds of child abuse that had been reported by the traditional media over the years, adding that it had helped with the publication of its report on the State of Child Protection in Ghana.

“The Child Abuse Tracker helps to track all forms of abuses ranging from sexual abuse to streetism and others.This year, we are focusing on children with disabilities and mental illness and to find ways of helping them,” he said.