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Religion of Sunday, 13 January 2013

Source: Graphic Online

Superstition, pastors blamed - For derailing effort at reducing mental illness

The National Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Akwasi Osei, has stated that superstition and the negative activities of some pastors are hampering efforts at reducing the rate of mental illness in the country.

He expressed regret at the way some pastors brainwashed patients and their relatives with false doctrines to the effect that they tended to believe in the supernatural, to the neglect of seeking advice from health professionals.

Dr Osei said this at a day’s workshop for the dissemination of the Mental Health Act in Tamale.

It was on the theme: “Increasing knowledge of key provisions of Ghana’s new Mental Health Law”.

The workshop was organised by Basic Needs, Ghana, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), with support from Comic Relief, with the aim of exposing key heads of departments and agencies, mental health service providers, security agencies and civil society groups to the key provisions of the Mental Health Law.

The participants discussed topics such as key commitments to increasing awareness of the Mental Health Law and background to the law.

Dr Osei underscored the need for attitudinal change if the Mental Health Law was to be effectively implemented.

He expressed concern over the attribution of mental illness to witchcraft or supernatural forces allegedly traceable to relatives of the patients.

“In fact, some of our pastors are not helping the situation, hence the need for social re-engineering. The attitude of some people towards religion is rather retrogressive,” the Chief Psychiatrist said.

He said one in four or five Ghanaians had some form of mental disorder, noting, for instance, that an abnormal obsession with neatness, fear of height or taking lifts and boarding aircraft were all mental disorders.

Dr Osei said about 93 per cent of suicide cases and over 90 per cent of armed robbery cases were due to mental disorder as a result of excessive intake of drugs.

He expressed optimism that in the next five to 10 years, the new Mental Health Law would help facilitate the establishment of 40-50 bed psychiatric hospitals in each region.

Dr Osei further stated that four drug rehabilitation centres would be established nationwide under the law.

The Executive Director of Basic Needs, Ghana, Mr Peter Badimak Yaro, pledged, on behalf of the organisation, to increase awareness of the Mental Health Law to deepen its understanding among the people.

“We will target specific groups and educate them on the law to ensure its effective implementation, ” he stated.

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