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Health News of Friday, 13 September 2019


They look normal but are not; how Ghanaians suffer from mental illness they’re oblivious of

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Ever wondered why someone close to us suddenly changes to a whole new person we completely can’t fathom? From their normal attitude to an overly elated person without any tangible reason or rather, to a very angry and aggressive person without cause.

Could it be most Ghanaians are suffering from mental illness they are oblivious of and are ignoring the signs due to the spiritual reasons attributed to it by society?

Mental health issues in African homes especially Ghana is not discussed and if so is discussed superstitiously. Family members, friends resort to churches or shrines for help when one starts to act abnormal than seek professional help from a health expert.

Again, when signs are ignored by relatives or acquaintances, those with mental conditions hardly speak out because they fear the stigma that is usually associated with the condition.

This is a problem as big as any other because it affects almost every age group and gender regardless of the profession.

Recently, a man believed to be in his 50s stormed the Kwabeng Police Station in the Eastern Region with a machete threatening to kill police officers on duty.

The deceased, Owusu Anyimadu was described by the police officers as mentally ill but family members of the man refuted claims saying he had no mental problems and was stable. According to family members of the deceased, Owusu Anyimadu worked at Burma Camp in Accra and was in Kwabeng for a funeral.

Another similar incident happened at Dansoman when a middle-aged man was murdered in cold blood on Sunday, September 8 by an armed mentally unstable man.

The alleged mad man was also killed by the residents because they believed he was a suspected ritual killer who paraded himself as a mad person.

Speaking to a clinical psychologist and a health expert on these and many other related issues, the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, Dr. Akwasi Osei opined that there are people suffering from mental illness they are not aware of, probably because enough sensitization have not been done although some Ghanaians are gradually becoming aware of it now.

He exclaimed that the man who was killed by police officers in Kwabeng perhaps had mental illness family members were not aware of.

“The one who went to the police station, I hear the relatives have come out to deny that he was mentally ill, I never saw the person so I can’t complain but it is equally possible that he had bipolar...So it may not have been pre-existing but within that short time that it came then it happened. So they will say my brother, he wasn’t like that but within that short time it is possible that he was mentally ill...But if he was not why will he go to the police station with a machete so that becomes a bigger question”.

A clinical psychologist, Aku Hayfron who also spoke to Ghanaweb on mental illness blamed Ghanaians for attaching spiritual connotations to the sickness.

According to her, mental illness is more of a medical problem than the spiritual issue so Ghanaians must not associate it to spirituality.

Dr. Akwasi Osei and Aku Hayfron both admonished Ghanaians to go for mental health check-ups every six months as that will detect early signs of mental illness. They also advocated for the need to have a shared responsibility in creating awareness on mental health issues for Ghanaians to be abreast with it.

Research from the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests, out of an estimated 30.42 million people living in Ghana, about 650,000 are suffering from severe mental health difficulty and a further 266,000 are suffering from a moderate to mild mental health illness.

However, there is no help and support for these individuals with a treatment gap of 98% with a large proportion of the total population expected to have a mental disorder.

Mental health services in Ghana are available at most levels of care. However, the majority of care is provided through specialized psychiatric hospitals with relatively less government provision and funding for general hospital and primary health care-based services. The few community-based services being provided are private.

Great efforts are being made to change the model of service provision to one which emphasizes care in the community.

What Bipolar disorder is and how to detect if one suffers from it

Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts to mania or hypomania (less extreme than mania), you may feel euphoric, full of energy or unusually irritable. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behaviour and the ability to think clearly.

Episodes of mood swings may occur rarely or multiple times a year. While most people will experience some emotional symptoms between episodes, some may not experience any.

Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, one can manage his/her mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder is treated with medications and psychological counselling (psychotherapy).

When to see a doctor

Despite the mood extremes, people with bipolar disorder often don't recognize how much their emotional instability disrupts their lives and that of their loved ones when they don't get the treatment they need.

And if you're like some people with bipolar disorder, you may enjoy the feelings of euphoria and cycles of being more productive. However, this euphoria is always followed by an emotional crash that can leave you depressed, worn out — and perhaps in financial, legal or relationship trouble.

If you have any symptoms of depression or mania, see your doctor or mental health professional. Bipolar disorder doesn't get better on its own. Getting treatment from a mental health professional with experience in bipolar disorder can help you get your symptoms under control.

Information from was used in writing the story

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