Ghana’s Population In Psychological Distress

Ghana has a major distress on its hands as 41 per cent of its population is psychological distressed.

This is according to a recent study, which indicates that 47 in a 100 people are psychologically distressed which affect them mentally.

Dr Akwasi Osei, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mental Health Board said the study organised by the Yale University has showed that Ghana had 41 per cent prevalence of psychological distress in various degrees, out of which 22 per cent was moderate, 12 per cent mild and seven per cent severe, meaning, there was a problem serious enough to be considered mental illness.

Speaking at a Sensitization forum on the Mental Health Act to directors of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Greater Accra Health Directorate in Accra on Wednesday, Dr Osei said despite the magnitude of the global disease burden, it was not spelt out in the Millennium Development Goals but cut across goals four and five.

The event was sponsored by Basic Needs, an International development advocacy organisation which works to bring about lasting changes in the lives of mentally ill people around the world.

He said if mothers were not sound it would be difficult to ensure their children accessed health care and education.

In May 2013, the World Health Assembly declared that all member states should plan towards the better provision of Mental Healthcare because 14 per cent of the global burden was attributed to neuropsychiatric disorders.

This according to Dr Osei there was a two per cent increase since the year 2000 and an expected two per cent increase by 2020, which required that there should be more interventions to stem the tide.

“Yet in Ghana, mental health care was largely limited to the urban areas and with only three psychiatric hospitals and 12 practising psychiatrists for the 25 million people”.

While the required number of professionals for a low income country was 150, Ghana had 12, 700 psychiatric nurses instead of 30,000 and four clinical psychologists instead of a 100.

According to Dr. Osei, the field of mental health in Ghana was vast and the workers were very few and said the board had drafted a Legislative Instrument for effective implementation of a mental health law and the establishment of a mental health fund.

The current state of mental health was one of a centralised, over medicalised, lack of human resource, stigma and discrimination, human right abuses which contributed to poor mental health care.

Under the law, there will be the establishment of the Mental Health Authority, a fund, training of human resources, decentralisation of mental health, emphasis on research, community oriented care, criminalisation of human right abuse among other measures.

He said a Legislative Instrument (LI) was in the offing and when finalised and approved, private mental clinics, non-governmental organisations, traditional health centres and faith based organizations would be incorporated into mental health operations under registration and regulation.

This would help track and monitor such organisations to ensure they did not maltreat or abuse the rights of mental health patients in the course of administering care.

The LI would also capture rights and protection of health workers and therefore require all health professionals to be knowledgeable and be able to manage mental health.

Dr Osei also said the board would liaise with the Social Welfare Department, the Ghana Police Service and health professionals to clear mental health patients from the streets.

The programme dubbed: “Operation Clear the Street and Unchain Mental Health Patients” has been put in place to take mental patients off the streets for treatment in two to three months and reintegrate them back into the society

Dr Cynthia Sottie, Director of Mental Health at the GHS noted that the forum was to provide the platform for health directors to come to terms with their roles and responsibilities in the face of integrating mental health into primary health care.

Dr Kwesi Addai Donkoh, Director, Supplies, Stores and Drugs Management of the GHS who chaired the event noted that mental health was now everybody’s business with roles and responsibilities spelt out clearly in the Act.

He noted that community orientation should not be left at the doorstep of the district Assemblies alone and called on all stakeholders to get involved for a smooth implementation of the Act.

Managers of the proposed mental health fund should put in place measures to ensure release of funds in order not to inherit the problems associated with the GETFund and the National Health Insurance Scheme, he said.