Health News of Friday, 15 March 2013

Source: Daily Graphic

Don't call mental health patients idiots

It is derogatory, inhuman and a human rights violation for the criminal code to refer to a mental patient as an 'imbecile' or 'idiot', according to the Mental Health Society of Ghana.

The organisation, which is a coalition of advocacy groups on mental health, has called for an amendment of a section of the criminal Code, 1960 (Act 29) to remove these terms.

A delegation from the society and mental health advocates met in Accra Thursday with some senior officials of the Attorney-General’s Department to discuss how to repeal Section 102 of the Act 29.

The meeting, which was initiated by the Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Council in Ghana, with funding from the University College of Ibadan, was on the theme Building Legal Support and Understanding for Mental Health in Ghana.

The meeting also discussed ways of seeking a Supreme Court interpretation of “sound mind” in Chapter Seven of Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution with the view to reviewing the wording to avoid a situation where there would be unnecessary discrimination against people with mental challenge.

Another objective of the meeting was to fashion ways of drafting a legislative instrument (LI) to give teeth to the Mental Health Act which was passed by Parliament in 2012.

A Principal State Attorney, Ms Fredrica Iliasu, who deliberated on the various issues with the stakeholders, said there was the need for them to go through laid down procedures for the enactment of substantive and subsidiary legislation.

On the issue of seeking the Supreme Court’s interpretation of “sound mind”, Ms Iliasu said the stakeholders could initiate the process at the court, saying it was only the Supreme Court that could determine its interpretation.

According to her, most of the laws were inherited from the colonial masters and so there was the need for them to be fine-tuned to suit the country’s customs and traditions.

The Head of the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Ghana Medical School, Dr Sammy Ohene, in a contribution, said there was the need to seek proper interpretations to some of the laws on the country’s statutes, as some of the words had been inherited and their meanings posed a challenge to most people.