Although more than half of Ghana’s 30 million population live with one form of mental or intellectual disorder or another, the Mental Health Authority (MHA) is lamenting over inadequate funds to keep the only three mental health facilities in the country running effectively.
The issue of lack of funds has been persistent for a long time and this, according to the MHA, was affecting the delivery of quality and affordable mental healthcare services in the country.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in an interview in Accra, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the MHA, Dr Akwasi Osei, expressed worry over the poor attention given to mental health in the country.
He mentioned some mental illnesses as schizophrenia, delusion disorders and mild to moderate depression, various kinds of anxieties and various sleep disorders and said if quality and early care was not given, these could escalate to serious mental illness.
“How can we deliver Universal Health Coverage (UHC)?as a country as successive governments have promised when we have relegated mental health to the background?
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With this situation, we cannot boldly talk about not leaving anyone behind in the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.
Cash and carry
Dr Osei has warned that if nothing was done about the situation, it would reach a point where patrons of the public mental health facilities would have to pay before they received any service.
A situation, he said, would worsen the already unpleasant status of mental healthcare delivery services in the country.
He said everyone was at risk of mental health diseases and, therefore, delivering quality mental healthcare services had to be a shared responsibility.
Dr Osei called on the private sector and benevolent institutions to consider mental health in their philanthropic gestures or corporate social responsibilities.
He underscored the need for the nation to increase its spending on mental health care to help effectively manage mental illness and other psychiatric disorders.
He, therefore, called on stakeholders, particularly the media, to re-strategise in getting the attention of the government to prioritise mental health in its development agenda, as mental health services had been relegated to the background.
Dr Osei called for a paradigm shift from the numerous conferences, talk shops and fora just to talk about the problems, without stakeholders collaborating to advocate better service delivery, the provision of infrastructure, as well as appropriate interventions and reforms that would improve mental health and mental health service delivery.
He also called for a change in the narrative that only focused on projecting the daunting challenges facing the sector to a holistic approach of sustained advocacy for change or reforms in mental health care.
“When we talk of quality mental health care, we are talking about adequate human resource, state-of-the-art facilities and equitability in the spread of services all over the country, so that anybody can easily access mental health care,” he stated.
Dr Osei said considering the critical need for reforms in mental health service delivery, stakeholders, particularly the media and civil society, needed to develop new pragmatic strategies that would compel the government and other stakeholders to act appropriately to give the needed attention to mental health, since current efforts were not yielding the desired results.
He said so far through advocacy in the area of mental health, talk had made its impact, particularly in relation to getting the Mental Health Act passed, getting the public to become aware of its responsibility towards people living with mental conditions, ending the phenomenon of putting patients in chains and through inhumane conditions at alternate health centres and prayer camps, among other achievements.