Officials Warn Against Mental Health Challenges
Health officials have expressed alarm over the increasing mental health problems among the older population in the country and called for individual and communal effort to stem the tide.
Neuropsychiatric disorders of older adults account for six percent of total disability, while approximately 15 percent of adults aged 60 and over suffer a mental disorder.
Dr Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyira, Director-General of the Ghana Health Services in a speech read on his behalf at a community durbar facilitated by Basic Needs-Ghana to mark world mental health day on Wednesday said older adults face special health challenges.
He said a growing number of the aged were losing their ability to live independently because of limited mobility, frailty, forgetfulness and other physical or mental health problems that required some form of long term care.
Dr Appiah-Denkyira said older adults were not only vulnerable to physical neglect and maltreatment, which could lead to physical injuries, depression and anxiety.
Dr Akwasi Osei, Chief Psychiatrist, Mental Health Authority, said people ought to appreciate the fact that mental illness is a common affliction which was treatable and preventable.
He advised the public to be each other’s keeper, saying, “If a brother, relative, close relation or friend begins to have a change in behaviour, becomes withdrawn, sits down too quietly, sighs too often, complains of being fed up with life, these are changes that should draw attention that the person needs help.”
In such situations, he said, people should draw closer to the person and try to find what is happening and if need be advice him/her to contact a doctor or visit the nearest health facility or appropriate referral point.
This year’s mental health day was on the theme: “Mental Health and the Place of our aged in service provision and social care” is to remind Ghanaians that dehumanising treatment against the aged is an offence.
Dr Akwasi Osei hinted that with the coming into force of the mental health law, maltreatment, such as chaining, flogging and starving of patients as well as calling them derogatory names, would be a violation of the law, warning that “perpetrators will not go scot free.”
He added; “Human rights will be a thing of the past as anybody who engages in any act which violates the right any person suffering from depression, dementia or any other mental disorder, would not be spared.”
The officials good general health and social care were important for promoting older people’s health, prevent disease and manage chronic illnesses.
The officials said the aged need support to improve their mental state, however, this required collective responsibility from the family, community and health workers.
According to the health officials promoting active and health ageing, closer involvement of the aged in meaningful activities coupled with strong interpersonal relationships and good physical care are key to the mental health of older people.
Mr Mathias Puozaa, Member of Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, said health workers could assist to promote healthy lifestyles among the aged by encouraging physical and mental activity, carrying out health education on harmful use of alcohol and smoking.
He said there was the urgent need to start planning for the aged so that as the nation could reap the benefits of their experience chalked out over the years in public and private lives.
He called for intense awareness creation on mental health problems associated with the elderly population such as dementia, delirium; psychosis and depression are treatable rather than resorting to prayer camps or witches camps.