Journalists in Ghana particular, those reporting in the health sector have been urged to divert attention more significantly to promote mental health and the welfare of people with mental illness or epilepsy.
BasicNeeds-Ghana, a mental health and development advocacy organisation has engaged the media to discuss possible ways of increasing advocacy of mental health in Ghana through research and media reportage.
The Guest Speaker, Professor J.B Asare, Board Chairman of Mental Health Authority pointed out that mental illness is a disease of the mind which can be managed like any other diseases in the country.
He said this under the forum for media on mental health to increase the interests and attention of the media to mental health issues.
The school of thought has been that, people diagnose with mental illness or epilepsy areconsidered outraged and eternally cannot be treated or managed.
Professor Asare, during his presentation enumerated a lot of interventions that took place under the current regime including familiarization visit to the three psychiatric hospitals, an approved organogram for the authority, a formation of sub-committees of the board namely fund raising, human resource, technical and operational sub-committee, and health fund committees.
Alfred NorteyDua, Department of Psychology, University of Ghana, during his presentation pointed out that the challengewhich hinders media advocacy in mental health is the lack of tools, skills, capacity and information necessary to effectively report on mental health issues.
He therefore urged journalists to be tremendous in generating public and policy discussions on mental health issues by building their capacity.
According to him, journalists should raising public awareness about mental health and mental health services by reporting stories that will promote access to safe, effective care and reduction of the stigma associated with the diagnose.
A short briefing paper by BasicNeeds noted that the mental health sub-sector has received some attention with the promulgation of a new law (Act 846, 2012) to replace the outdated Mental Health Decree (NRC30) of 1972 including the pronouncements of key policy authorities of government and the health services.
Unfortunately, according to the briefing paper, such pronouncements have not been backed by the resources and necessary interventions needed to improve the mental health situation in Ghana whiles the available health infrastructure in the country is generally poor with outdated devices and equipment.
It further indicated that the situation could have been addressed if there were a Mental Health Policy and strategy to translate the pronouncements, desires and aspirations into practical actions.
The paper added that the absence of that policy is hampering concerted steps such as the Legislative Instrument (LI) to serve as implementation guide for the Mental Health Law which is yet to be approved.
Some challenges were that access to treatment services is low adding that the treatment gap hovers around over 90% percent, 37 percent of people with mental illness and epilepsy have never received treatment from health facility whiles the remaining 63 percent who indicated that they have received treatment actually went through a number of unsuccessful treatment options (e.g. spiritualists, soothsayers, traditionalists) before treatment from psychiatrics.
Another challenges is the human resource needs, during professorAsare’s presentation, there is the critical need for psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and community psychiatric nurses because out of the twelve psychiatrists, majority of them are working in the psychiatric hospitals all located in the southern coastal part of the country.
The briefing paper further added that infrastructure and logistics in Ghana are either in a state of despair with outdated devices and equipment- Out of the 10 regional hospitals in Ghana only 7 have functioning Psychiatric Units.
According to the paper, psychotropic and anti-epilepsy medicine supply and distribution has been consistently irregular-government supplies of the drugs stands at 40percent of required quantities which is relatively low.
The stigma, public and community attitudes and behaviours are becoming more worrisome because people usually associate a spiritual cause as being the responsible for mental illness or epilepsy.
Notwithstanding, the local movie has been the major cause of the stereotyping that mental illness and epilepsy presenting a picture that almost every mental illness is a curse or punishment for some bad deeds.
In spite of these developments, the media were asked to educate and inform the public that mental illness is never a curse or a punishment however, it is any diseases which can be managed and sometimes treated completely by professional psychiatrists.
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