General News of Thursday, 13 July 2017
Ahead of the implementation of the Mental Health Law by the legislature, some top hierarchy members of the Mental Health Authority have engaged members of the Judicial Council in the Northern, Upper East, and Upper West regions on some insights of the law.
The team led by the Chief Executive Officer of the Authority, Dr Akwasi Osei, took the Judicial Council through the nitty-gritty of the law in Tamale, Northern Region. The Mental Health Act was enacted by Parliament in 2012 – Act 846 – but according to Dr Osei, the rollout has been very slow, a situation heavily blamed on the late establishment of a governing body, which was only done after one and half years of implementation of the law.
That he says slowed down the passage of the law hence Ghana still battling with some inaccuracies in mental health care. Among such inaccuracies are the absence of psychiatric hospitals in some regions and the inability of citizens to demand from the Regional Coordinating Councils a safe haven for the mentally unstable.
“It took about one and half years after the enactment of the law for a mental health governing body to be established and it’s when that body was established before we began to roll out the implementation, even so we still have the Legislative Instrument which will fully enable the law to be functional and yet to be passed.”
As Ghana prepares to implement the Legislative Instrument(LI), the Authority deems it appropriate to engage members of the Judicial Council being cognizant of the role it plays in the implementation of laws.
The training witnessed presentation of the Act with members taken through how to deal with mental health patients who appear before them, identify true patients from those who pretend just to escape from the law.
“We are here to engage the judiciary for them to understand issues of mental health generally so that when they come face-to-face with patients, either somebody who has mental health illness or pretending to have mental health problem, they will be able to handle them because we’re aware of the role the judiciary play in law making.”
Aside being trained on identifying real mentally challenged persons and their rights to social justice and hearings, the training also sought to share knowledge on depression, a phenomenon identified among the judiciary and the psychiatrists but least talked about.
“The training will help members of the judiciary identify depression which is a very major issue so as they recognize and understand depression [and that] they will be able to handle it even when they are beginning to exhibit traits of depression themselves, identify their own stress issues among their colleagues and handle it because the judiciary and the psychiatrists are among the two groups professionals who undergo a lot of stress in Ghana,” Dr Osei indicated.
The Mental Health Act seeks to bring a new approach that will ensure a completely new kind of mental health care, for instance, the almost takeover of the streets by the mentally ill persons, owners of prayer camps putting patients in chains, whipping and maltreating them, too much discrimination and stigmatization, marginalization of the mentally ill by the ordinary people, and even among policy makers, and also seek to address the inability of the mental ill person to afford medications.”