MindFreedom Ghana, a mental health advocacy organization, has unveiled a two-year project to help fight the underlining challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic facing persons with mental health conditions and promote their fundamental rights to live decent lives as every citizen.
The ongoing project, which commenced in 2020 and is expected to end in 2022, highlights the “Institutional strengthening and awareness-raising to fight COVID-19 and its impact on People with Lived Experiences in Ghana.”
Mr Dan Taylor, Executive Secretary of MindFreedom, who was speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency on the current project said it would support strengthening the capacity of communities for advocacy and awareness creation.
He said the project was to give insights into the realities of mental health and how the COVID-19 pandemic had created panic, fear and anxieties in local communities and persons with mental health conditions.
Again, it would contribute to addressing the scourge of stigma and discrimination associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, which had adversely affected the economic and social lives of patients and their relatives.
The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) is supporting the implementation of the project to build the resilience of communities in Jasikan in the Oti Region to help address stigma and mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 among people with psychosocial disorders.
Mr Taylor stated that a workshop has, therefore, been organised for local organisations, community leaders and health workers in the Volta Region to help spread information on issues of mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said various participants were equipped with the competencies and information to tackle the concomitant effects of the psychological and emotional well-being of mental health patients.
According to him, posters and other awareness creation materials were distributed, and was thus, hopeful that it would go a long way to help in the dissemination of information and education to ameliorate the impact of the pandemic.
MindFreedom Ghana is envisioned to improve the mental health and lives of persons with mental disabilities in Ghana as well as promote their human rights and dignity.
Mr Taylor chronicled conclusions that were reached at its Jasikan workshop as establishment of Community Counselling Centres to offer services and support to people with emotional and psychological challenges.
It also wants inclusion of mental health issues in the developmental plans of communities and budgets of various District Assemblies and intensified public education and sensitization on mental health issues in the communities.
It also resolved on establishing Peer Support Groups, where persons with mental health challenges could belong to interact among themselves; Establishment of recreational centres and organization of regular activities as means of exercise and enhancing the mental health of the populace.
It was concluded that information and education on mental health issues and COVID-19 be shared on social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
A presentation by Dr Eugene K Dordoye, Consultant Psychiatrist, on COVID-19 and Mental Health, stressed the need to manage psychosis by stepping up education for caregivers, introducing psychosocial interventions and ensuring psychopharmacology after proper diagnosis.
He said COVID-19 had increased mental ill-health and worsened mental illnesses, and therefore called for a “collaborated concerted effort by all stakeholders” to address the matter.
Another presentation by the Oti Regional Director of Ghana Health Service, Dr Osei Kuffuor Afreh, was pleased about the objectives of the workshop taking place in Jasikan and described the interventions the workshop had set out to achieve as laudable and hoped it would go a long way to improve mental healthcare in the Region.
He however expressed concern about the widespread substance abuse in Jasikan, which had culminated in lots of mental health conditions affecting mostly the youth.
Dr Afreh urged participants and traditional rulers and assembly members to carry the learnings from the workshop to their communities and endeavour to talk about issues of mental health at any public gatherings.