General News of Friday, 10 October 2014


Resource constraints may force shutdown of mental facilities

As Ghana joins the rest of the world in marking World Mental Health Day, the Chief Psychiatrist of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital bemoans a lack of resources to treat psychiatric patients.

Speaking to Joy Fm, Dr. Akwasi Osei said the lack of adequate resources is threatening the existence of mental treatment facilities across the nation.

“We don’t have enough financial resources we require to treat the mental cases. We have lack[ed] the logistics to treat them.”

A major source of concern for the sector is the concentration of mental health facilities in the south of the country. In an ideal situation, there should be facilities all over the country, making it relatively easy for people to reach them.

“We should be able to spread our services everywhere so that wherever you are, within walking distance, you can access mental health care.”

Human Rights Abuse

He added that stigmatization is still a major challenge in combating mental health issues in the country and expressed concern over the sort of human rights abuses mental health patients face.

“If you go to the prayer camps, the traditional healers [put] people in chains. It is dehumanizing. We want to put an end to this situation”.

"There’s a lot of stigma about mentally ill people. So people do not want to accept them even when they have been treated.

He made mention of a popular twi proverb, “Obi abodam ko a, na ?ny3 kakra a, ode be hunahuna mmofra” (If someone’s mental illness is treated, it won’t be long before they use it to frighten children).

Dr. Osei expressed the view that the above is false. He assured the public that a person’s mental illness can be fully treated and they will be as normal as anyone else.

He dispelled the notion that mental patients may have been victims of witchcraft or incurred the wrath of some evil spirits.

“All that robs us of our sympathy for the mentally ill. We want to say that mental illness has nothing to do with witchcraft, has nothing to do with juju. Let Satan, if he is there, let him sit somewhere and have his peace of mind.”

A Former Patient's Experience

Echoing Dr. Osei’s words, a recovered patient of the Psychiatric Hospital decried the stigmatisation that has plagued her since her release.

“They have taken their minds off me. My family won’t support me financially. They say they have their own children and can’t afford to help”.

She expressed belief that her problem was spiritually sourced. “It is because of the sickness that was placed on me”. She intimated that doctors have advised her not to over-worry and that she needs to avoid stress. “I shouldn’t even get angry when someone upsets me”.

This, she said, is difficult because people often treat her with disrespect. “Just recently, I went to stay with a friend and the way her children behaved, it wasn’t good at all. They treat me like a child and act like I don’t have brains. When they return from work and find me sleeping on my mat, the way they walk over me, it’s not nice. And in all this, I cannot raise a complaint.”

World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10 every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.

The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.

The theme for 2014 is “Living with schizophrenia”. The focus of the WHO will be living a healthy life with schizophrenia.