Frederick Ampong is excited at his volunteering role to support mental health patients in his local community at Bekwai Ahwiaa within the Bekwai municipality of the Ashanti region.
For him, ‘mental health is a right and not a privilege’, hence his commitment to advocate against stigmatization of mental health patients.
“When I realized patients can get better when they take their medication, I was happy to help in educating others; we’ve engaged in several activities and by God’s grace, a lot of people who by taking their medication have recovered,” he stated.
Frederick is among volunteers and self-help groups trained in various communities under the Mental Health and Development Programme.
The Programme, implemented by the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) in collaboration with BasicNeeds Ghana, is working to ensure people with mental health illness and epilepsy are able to live and work successfully in their communities.
“We are looking at a situation where people will not be sent to institutions but will be kept in communities, to access healthcare facilities from district hospitals where mental health units are being established,” stated Michael Bosompem-Twum, programme officer at CEDEP.
Five districts have benefitted from the project since inception in 2011 – including Bekwai Municipal, Amansie West, Adansi South, Ejura Sekyedumase municipal and Tafo sub-metro in Kumasi. It’s being scaled-up to all districts of Ashanti region.
According to Mr. Bosompem-Twum, targets set under the first phase of the project have been exceeded in Ashanti – close to 1,700 patients have been reached in the past four years.
The volunteers and self-help groups are seen as critical stakeholders to sustain the programme due to their interest in community development.
They have being undergoing continuous skill training to devise strategies to manage mental health cases, including follow-ups on patients to administer their medication, identification of patients in communities and make referrals of patients to health facilities.
The second phase of the Programme is supporting the government to build a National Mental Health System that effectively and efficiently responds to the mental health needs of the population.
“Mental ill-health should be seen as equally important,” said Fred Nantogmah, the communication and information officer of Basic Needs Ghana.
The project, funded by DFID, seeks to decentralize mental health treatment services and to make it a community- based activity.
Challenges faced by the volunteers include inadequate logistics, especially transportation to ease mobility in rural communities.
Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh
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