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General News of Thursday, 28 February 2008

Source: GNA

Over 16,691 suffer from mental illness and epilepsy

Tamale, Feb. 28, GNA - Over 16,691 people in Ghana are suffering from various forms of mental illness and epilepsy with 14,796 of the cases from the three northern regions.

Out of the number 6,959 are suffering form epilepsy with 729 cases of epilepsy in the Tamale Metropolis alone.

This implies that about six per cent of the country's workforce that could have contributed to national development cannot do so because of their condition.

Mr. Yaro Badimak Peter, Country Programme Manager of BasicNeeds, a non-governmental organisation, said this at a one-day workshop on Mental Health for media practitioners in the Northern Region in Tamale on Wednesday.

The workshop was organised by BasicNeeds, which is involved in the treatment and also providing assistance to mentally ill people and their carers. Mr. Peter said about 90 per cent of the mental patients were receiving treatment from psychiatric units with a significant number of them having their conditions stabilised and being able to do something for themselves.

He expressed regret about the present attitude of treating mental patients and leaving them to their fate and suggested that community psychiatry should be made part of primary health care.

Mr. Peter said community based rehabilitation ensured the active participation of family and the community and this "does not rob the mentally ill person of his social links resulting from extreme restrictions nor does it create dependence and reduce opportunities." He said community participation in the treatment of mental patients allowed for shared burden with little to do about re-integration adding that; "That is why community psychiatry must be made part of primary health care and BasicNeeds will work to support this to happen".

He said at present the country had only 2.5 per cent active psychiatrists with less than three of them in the public health service and that in the Upper East Region there were just about 15 community psychiatry nurses, most of whom had less than 10 years to work before going on retirement.

Mr. Peter said BasicNeeds was faced with a lot of challenges including the high level of stigma attached to mental patients, lack of understanding between mental health and development and inadequate resources to carry out the programme's activities.

Mr. Anthony Akudugu, a Principal Nursing Officer of the Presbyterian Health Services in Bawku, said something urgent needed to be done to fill the vacancies being created with the retirement of the few ageing psychiatric nurses in the system.

He expressed concern that most of the young ones studying psychiatric were not willing to sacrifice and immediately left upon the completion of the courses for greener pastures. He said the situation was also not being helped when their colleagues other nurses and the general public continued to ridicule them as "mad doctors" instead of appreciating their efforts. 28 Feb 08

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