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General News of Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Source: GNA

Mental health care to collapse if ...

Accra, Oct. 10, GNA - The Acting Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Akwasi Osei on Wednesday said mental health care in the country should be reformed or else it would collapse in the next five years if the present situation continued.

He said if the Mental Health Bill were passed into law it would move mental health care into the communities with the assistance of the community psychiatric nurses to ensure that treated patients had follow-up health care to ease the pressure on the three main psychiatric hospitals in the country.

This would also ease congestion, he said, adding that psychiatric doctors and patients would also have enough time for patients. Dr Osei noted that the psychiatric hospitals were receiving increasing numbers of patients because of the frequent awareness of treatment.

He was speaking at the launch of this year's World Mental Health Day in Accra being celebrated under the theme: "Mental Health in a Changing World: The Impact of Culture and Diversity". Dr Osei said the psychiatric hospitals were overcrowded because relatives refused to come for patients, who had been treated. He noted that enrolment of psychiatric nurses had increased from 50 about five years ago to 400 and expressed the hope this would go up to 1,000 a year in the near future to ensure that there were enough nurses to cater for mental patients.

Dr Osei said the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons had introduced postgraduate programmes to train more psychiatrists to beef-up the small number currently working in the country. He explained that there were 25 doctors with various levels of knowledge in psychiatry assisting in the three psychiatric hospitals - Accra, Pantang and Ankaful - and expressed the hope that the number would increase by next year.

Dr Osei said mental health remained a major problem worldwide and had escalated due to the increased number of refugees and internally displaced persons, which had weakened the social structures, making life unbearable and resulting in several diseases.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, it is estimated that there were 200 million migrants worldwide with women and children representing more than 50 per cent.

He expressed regret that certain cultures were so deeply rooted that they had become stagnant and continued to perpetrate suffering and humiliation against people with mental illness.

Dr Osei said mental illness was treatable and highly preventable and called on Ghanaians to ensure that they visited their relatives, who found themselves in psychiatric hospitals very often and also to accept them back home when they were treated.

Dr Gladys Ashitey, a Deputy Minister of Health, said mental health in Ghana had received a full programme of work for 2007-2011 and the Government was giving it the needed attention.

She said a World Health Organisation (WHO) document indicated that 10 per cent of the Ghanaian population suffered from mental illness and the Ministry was liaising with the Mental Health Unit to mitigate the problems of mental health in the country.

"The Ministry of Health will ensure that we train more psychiatric nurses, community psychiatric nurses and medical assistants and to establish the post of clinical psychologists." Dr Ashitey commenting on the draft mental bill said it had some difficulties, which sought to create a parallel system of health care that would lead to furth er fragmentation of the health services and this was being resolved. She noted that the Ministry had requested the Mental Health Unit to submit a position paper on the Health Insurance Scheme to ensure that mental patients were included in the Scheme. Ms Sophia Twum Barimah, Public Affairs Officer of WHO, who read a speech on behalf of the Country Director, Dr Joachim Saweka, said 450 million people worldwide suffered from mental health or neurological disorder and many of them suffered silently.

"Beyond the suffering and beyond the absence of care lie the frontiers of stigma, shame, exclusion and more often than not, if we cared to know, death", she said. She said WHO in collaboration with its member states and partners had developed strategies to assist national and local policy makers in implementing the recommendations, which focused on cost effective interventions to do away with barriers to treatment, service provision and service planning, among other things. 10 Oct. 07