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Opinions of Monday, 6 June 2016

Columnist: Ashitey, Emmanuel Amarh

Why Ghana needs more psychologists

According to whole health organisation, It is estimated that of the 21.6 million people living in Ghana, 650,000 are suffering from a severe mental disorder and a further 2,166, 000 are suffering from a moderate to mild mental disorder in Ghana. Also on Saturday, 12 October 2013, the Ghana News Agency (GNA), reported Dr Akwasi Osei- the Chief Psychiatrist, as saying that Ghana’s current mental health service delivery, has a 97 per cent treatment gap- explaining that 97, out of a100 mental patients, who require health care, do not get it. n the words of Dr Akwasi Osei, a recent study showed that Ghana had 41 per cent prevalence of psychological distress in various degrees- meaning as many as 47 in a 100 admitted were under negative stress which affected them mentally and that 19 per cent of those with negative stress had moderate to severe symptoms meaning their problem was serious enough to be considered a mental illness.

Mental health care currently was largely limited to the urban area and even more specifically to the middle and northern belts of the country with only three psychiatric hospitals and 12 practicing psychiatrists for the 25 million people. It is also said that,the required number of professionals for a low income country was 150. Dr Osei states that Ghana has 12, 700 psychiatric nurses instead of 30,000 and four clinical psychologists instead of a 100. “The field of mental health in Ghana is vast and the workers are few,less attention has been giving to mentally ill patients and the majority of care is provided through specialized psychiatric hospitals close to the capital and servicing only small proportion of the population, with relatively less government provision and funding for general hospital and primary health care based services.

The Daily Graphic of June 25, 2009 also reported that common mental illnesses recorded by psychiatric hospitals in the country include depression, acute psychotic disorders, schizophrenia, neuroses, epilepsy, substance abuse, mania schizo-affect disorder, alcohol depression and dementia.

The top ten cases of admission in 2002 were schizophrenia (1,599), substance abuse (1,101), depression (736), hypomania (629), acute organic brain syndrome (495), manic depressive psychosis (343), schizo–affective psychosis (284), alcohol dependency syndrome (215), epilepsy (191) and dementia (131). Records at the three psychiatric hospitals show an out-patient total of 77,688 in 2001 and 82, 819 in 2002.

The need for psychologists and psychological services come to play when we have a growing population and very high psychological disorders among the population, this clearly call for attention to psychologists and mental health workers, how do we progress in the treatment of psychological disorders when the supply of psychologist and mental health workers in our health facilities is completely zero.

Every individual whether living in the city or rural areas go through psychological problems which they need psychologists and mental health workers to intervene but how many people get access to psychologists and mental health workers in our hospitals, government and NGOS must come together to create a system in which people can easily get access to psychologists and mental health workers in country, if we only care for people who are going through physiological and biological problems and leave mentally challenged patients without making any provision for their well being it will come back to hurt us. Just recently we have all witness constant increase in suicidal cases in country, it is clear that this people commit suicide because they don't get access to psychologists and mental health workers to intervene in their challenges.

I will recommend that government give more attention to mental health and psychologists in Ghana.

Emmanuel Amarh Ashitey
University of Ghana