The Psychiatric Association of Ghana (PAG) has expressed worry that the explosion at Apiate near Bogoso in the Western Region could increase the risk of diverse mental health problems and the risk of amplifying pre-existing mental health problems in the Apiate community.
The association said in a statement “as Mental Health professionals, we are aware that disasters like this create a wide range of Mental Health challenges at the individual, family, community and societal levels in the short, medium, and long term. As much as we are saddened by the lives lost, we are also concerned about the disruption of protective supports that were normally available, the increase in the risk of diverse Mental Health problems and the risk of amplifying pre-existing Mental Health problems in the Apiate community”.
“Following media reports, an emergency team of PAG members were quickly mobilized and deployed to the disaster site to do an initial assessment of the Mental Health impact of this disaster, to provide initial intervention and Specialist Psychiatric consultations and prescriptions to those severely affected. Our initial assessment indicated a traumatized population of close to 900 displaced persons, including 373 extremely vulnerable children.
“Of this, the Psychiatrists deployed were able to provide group psychoeducation after which some severe cases identified, were attended to, including free prescription medications. Preliminary findings included children who reportedly persistently scream at night, children who have gone mute since the explosion, adults who struggle with sleep at night, adults who are contemplating suicide, adults who are consistently crying over the loss of loved ones and adults who panic at the least sound”.
“These symptoms are consistent with the diagnosis of Acute Stress Reaction, which if not managed appropriately can lead to more severe forms of anxiety disorders including Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
“Attention must be drawn particularly to the potential impact on the children who stand the risk of severe Anxiety Disorders and regression of their development, with a potential impact on their academic performance.
“The volume of work is enormous and will require a major rapid mobilization of resources to set up multiple mobile trauma treatment centres in the community,” a statement they issued said.
It added “PAG is therefore calling on all stakeholders and well-meaning Ghanaians to put resources together to tackle the herculean task of averting the potential Mental Health catastrophe in Apiate. PAG, in addition to the initial assessment and intervention offered, is willing to continue to offer specialist Psychiatric intervention in collaboration with other sister Organizations for victims and families of this community.
“Even as attention and resources are rightfully being channeled towards rebuilding the devasted lives and livelihoods of the victims, we urge all stakeholders to pay close attention to their Mental Health needs as well, because a sound mind, is crucial to a productive restored Apiate community.”