Mental health experts say one out of every four Ghanaians has a chance of developing mental illness in a life time.
The experts in a communiqué on the state of mental health services delivery in the country issued after a stakeholders meeting in Accra also said 41 per cent of Ghanaians had one mental disorder or the other.
The communiqué, signed by the Deputy Executive Director of the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG), Dr James Duah, therefore, called on the government to give mental health “the same attention it gives other non-communicable diseases.”
The stakeholder engagement, organised by the CHAG in collaboration with the Mental Health Authority (MHA) and other stakeholders as part of activities to mark its 50th anniversary, was to elicit the support of all stakeholders for the improvement of mental health services in the country and improve the lives of people living with mental illnesses in Ghana.
The communiqué expressed the concern that even though mental health remained a challenge in the country, “very limited resources are committed to its provision at both policy and operational levels”.
Legislative Instrument (LI)
It observed that although the Mental Health Act, 2012 (Act 846) enjoined the MHA to champion the course of mental health, the legal backing to enforce its duties had not been operationalised.
“And so subsequent to the passage of the new Mental Health Act 846, a Legislative Instrument (LI) is necessitated to facilitate effective implementation of the Act. Accordingly, the passage of the Legal Instrument (LI) remains imperative and indispensable for mental health,” the communique noted.
The communiqué called on the government and stakeholders in the provision of mental health services to develop more psycho-social rehabilitation centres, including half-way homes at mental health facilities and community levels and train more personnel to man the centres.
“This will foster faster re-integration into society, improve recovery of persons treated from mental disorders, reduce the rate of relapse and stigma for persons living with mental illness. Institutions should ensure that psycho-social rehabilitation is part of the treatment plan for every new client that they attend to,” it explained.
Limited human resource
Referring to the limited human resource, it urged the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons to target the training of 259 psychiatrists to close the wide gap in requirement for psychiatrists (specialists).
“Attempts should be made to generate doctors’ and medical students’ interest in psychiatry. We call on the government to incentivise psychiatry training by reducing the fees or fully fund the training for the next 15 years.
“Additionally, the entry requirements to psychiatry training should be lowered (e.g. straight entry into the programme after housemanship training),” it said.