Home » Breaking News » Health Minister Petitioned Over Inclusion of a Service User on the Mental Health Board
Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, Minister for Health

Health Minister Petitioned Over Inclusion of a Service User on the Mental Health Board

The Mental Health Society of Ghana (MEHSOG) and the Alliance for Mental Health are calling on the Ministry of  Health to as a  matter of urgency consider the inclusion of mental health service users on the governing board of the Mental Health Authority which is to be constituted and inaugurated in line with Section Four of the Mental Health Law (Act 846 2012).

The Pro- Mental Health Advocacy Organizations in a petition addressed to the Minister for Health are optimistic that the Minister will go by the dictates of the Mental Health Law, to at least, appoint one service user on the Mental Health Board in the coming days.

“We are confident that the announcement of the Governing Board will include at least one service user. This is because Section 4(i) allows you as Minister of Health to nominate three non-governmental persons to the eleven-member Board. We believe that you will grant this petition given that our request is timely; it is within your domain as Minister of Health to do so; and it is in line with the relevant section of the Mental Health Law,” the petition stated.

 It added “It is the position of MEHSOG, a service user advocacy and policy influence organization, with members across the country, that taking action on this petition will help to remove public perception that policy makers are not keen to integrate the needs of service users in health system development. In fact, there is a growing interest in the involvement of service users in health system.”

Below is the Full Petition

The Minister of Health

Ministry of Health

Ministries, Accra

Dear Sir,

INCLUSION OF A SERVICE USER ON THE MENTAL HEALTH BOARD TO BE TRULY INCLUSIVE AND DEVOID OF DISCRIMINATION AND EXCLUSION.

The Mental Health Society of Ghana (MEHSOG) and the Alliance for Mental Health, are calling on the Ministry of Health to, as a matter of urgency, consider the inclusion of mental health service users on the governing board of the Mental Health Authority which is to be constituted and inaugurated in line with Section Four of the Mental Health Law (Act 846 2012).

We are confident that the announcement of the Governing Board will include at least one service user. This is because Section 4(i) allows you as Minister of Health to nominate three non-governmental persons to the eleven-member Board. We believe that you will grant this petition given that our request is timely; it is within your domain as Minister of Health to do so; and it is in line with the relevant section of the Mental Health Law.

As the formation of the board looks imminent after nearly ten months following the dissolution of the previous one, we find it prudent to write to you as minister to ask you to ensure inclusiveness when constituting the new governing board.  We ask that the governing board should include service users because they are very critical stakeholders in mental health and that every effort be made to avoid discrimination and unequal treatment. 

It is the position of MEHSOG, a service user advocacy and policy influence organization, with members across the country, that taking action on this petition will help to remove public perception that policy makers are not keen to integrate the needs of service users in health system development. In fact, there is a growing interest in the involvement of service users in health system issues. We believe that the collaboration with users provides key inputs to the health system to deliver quality services that meet their needs. For example, a governing board member who is a service user can share his/her lived experience (e.g. with stigma, service seeking and the attitudes of service

providers towards people with mental illness) and this information can be used to improve health reforms and service delivery.

 We consider it important to raise the visibility of service users as leaders in key roles at all levels. Indeed, increasing service user leadership by way of representation on the governing board of the Mental Health Authority will not only ensure equal access of service users onto the board, but will also further foster inclusionary practices within mental health services in Ghana.

Mental health service user involvement in decision making could be an important strategy for advocacy and improving service delivery. Besides, the involvement of service users on the board will help improve the responsiveness of the Mental Health Authority to respect the actual needs of the users and reduce stigma.

The phrase “Nothing About Us Without Us” ignites a vision for people with disabilities that represents pride and power rather than stigma and pity. It is worthy of note that the disability community is an empowering and uplifting community that unites and works for rights and dignity of people with disabilities.

The phrase reinforces the possibilities for people with disabilities to be meaningfully included in every type of organization and institution and to have a valued voice in every facet of daily life. In other words, what mental health service users are implying is that there cannot be any discussions concerning them without them as end users.

Indeed, service users are those who patronize services and can make contributions/inputs into discussions that can change the face of mental health in Ghana, and not people who have not used the service before. Also, we believe that the place where they can make those inputs (that is advocate for their welfare) and to influence policy in their favour most is on the governing board of the Mental Health Authority.

Therefore, in submitting this petition, we take the hopeful view that the other governing board members who will walk alongside the service user(s) who we trust you will nominate to the board to, among other things, challenge the institutional and other structures that perpetuate stigma and discrimination towards service users.

We are convinced that the governing board of the mental health authority can be the starting place for social inclusion and source of increased personal power.

The personal power which is regarded as an integral part of social inclusion should provide service users with the self-confidence to make choices in their daily lives. It will also help them contribute to decision-making whilst serving on the governing board. In conclusion, the Mental Health Society of Ghana makes the point that there is a very strong moral case for the Ministry of Health to support service user involvement in the management of mental health in Ghana.

It is a fact that mental health service users tend to be invisible, marginalized and until recently when the Mental Health Society of Ghana was formed, they were not mobilized as a group. Structural barriers, including stigma and low funding, exacerbate the situation.  Even though strategic steps still need to be undertaken to advocate for people with lived experience of mental health conditions, accepting this petition and, for that matter, getting at least one service user to serve on the governing board of the mental health authority can be a huge step forward towards effectively engaging users in mental health systems strengthening in the country.

Cc:        The Director-General, Ghana Health Service

The Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Authority

x

Check Also

Africa Education Watch demands 50% increment in allocation to basic education

Education Think Tank, Africa Education Watch, has urged the government to increase the basic education ...