Ark Foundation organises dialogue on leadership

The Technical Advisor of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ms Dinah K. Adiko, has called for the tightening of social protection measures and systems which address issues of gender-based violence, poverty, maternal health and care giving.

She expressed concern that the extended family system in the country was weak, adding that the traditional forms of social protections are almost gone, leaving women with very little protection.

Ms Adiko made the call at the second women’s leadership and policy dialogue series organised by the Ark Foundation.

Participants were drawn from government mental health institutions, women activists, medical practitioners, the Mental Health Association of Ghana and the media.

The forum, funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), was dubbed, “Women’s Mental Health and Current Social Protection Measures in Ghana: Challenges and the Way Forward.”

Ms Adiko said she believed that women’s mental health issues in most societies in the country were based on ignorance and called for comprehensive education to change the perception towards people suffering from mental problem.

The Rector of the Law Institute, Ms Hilary Gbedemah, who chaired the function, observed that though both men and women suffered from mental health, women were affected more. Women suffering abuse 

She said society made it difficult for women who suffered abuse to even report to the appropriate quarters.

Speaking on the topic, “Addressing women’s mental health as a human right issue in Ghana”, the Executive Director of the Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA), Ms Jane Quaye, emphasised that the treatment gap for mental health patients in the country stood at 98 per cent.

She said “This calls for serious interventions from the government, the Mental Health Board and all the relevant stakeholders”.

She noted that mental health is a debilitating issue in Ghana, though no serious attention was paid to it, adding that over two million Ghanaians are currently suffering from moderate to mild mental disorders.

Ms Quaye advocated the application of the human rights-based approach to address mental health issues to ensure that prevention, treatment and rehabilitation became consistent components of an integrated approach towards addressing mental health issues. Discussions

During the discussions, the participants called on the government to demonstrate political will and commitment to fulfill its obligation under international human rights instruments and local legislation towards addressing mental health and other disability issues.

They called for the decriminalisation of suicide attempts and expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which suicide ideation and actual attempts were treated by the society and the current legislation.

The forum underscored the fact that suicidal attempts were an expression of an underlying mental health disorder and lack of social support and, therefore, called on the government to reform the section of the Mental Health Act which addressed suicide.

The forum called on the government, the Ministry of Health and the Mental Health Board to immediately establish the Mental Health Fund and to ensure specific and adequate budgetary allocation to the fund. 

“This would serve to operationalise the Mental Health Authority and empower it to effectively implement the provisions of the Act,” the forum added.

Earlier in a welcome address, Ms Angela Dwamena-Aboagyesaid she was hopeful that the participants would bring their experience to bear on the discussions so that a paper would be submitted to the Mental Health Authority, which had just been set up.

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