A proposal has been made to Government to consider incorporating the subject of mental health and COVID-19 in every school’s curriculum as a test free course so as to enable students to learn how to take care of their mental health during the pandemic.
The proponent, Mental Health Society of Ghana (MEHSOG) believes that such a move among other things has the potential to curb the increasing levels of Covid -19 mental health complications in Ghana.
MEHSOG together with Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations (GFD) also recommended the need for government to collaborate with the survivors of COVID-19 induced mental health challenges and provide them with some psychosocial services and also some alternative livelihood supports, while urging the government to work with religious bodies, traditionalists and the general public in disseminating information and education on mental well-being.
It is also recommended that Community health workers be trained quickly to provide mental health education, screening and counselling services. Psychological services, it is suggested, must also be provided at the various health care centres within the communities and the cost should be absolved by the State or subsidized for the client.
These proposals were made at a media engagement on Covid-19 and the impact of the Pandemic on Mental Health in Ghana. The meeting was put together by MEHSOG in collaboration with The GFD and supported by STAR-Ghana.
Addressing the media, Ms Esenam Drah, Projects Coordinator at MEHSOG, indicated that in the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has become one of the leading causes of mental health conditions partly due to the disease experience, social distancing, stigma, discrimination and job losses in Ghana which is one of the countries that have been affected by the pandemic. She noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has indeed presented an unprecedented stressor to these individuals.
According to her, Health care workers, patients with COVID-19, children, women, youth, and the elderly are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, increased depression, distress, insomnia, suicidal tendencies and high rate of substance use disorders among others.
She added that, “Mental health conditions are likely to begin and assume unimaginable proportions, and would also continue after the pandemic is over. Experience of the disease, breakdown of social support and stigma are possible causes of short-term mental health problems during this pandemic while factors such as economic losses can potentially cause long-term mental health issues, as extreme poverty exacerbates mental illness.”
In Ghana, evidence suggests that even frontline health care workers, who were directly involved in the collection of samples, diagnosis, treatment, and care of patients during an outbreak are also at higher risk of developing psychological distress and mental health symptoms. Anxiety, distress, depression, fear of spread of infection to family, friends and colleagues, anger and confusion were some of the immediate psychological impacts documented among frontline health care workers
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in four people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.
Ms Drah noted that, “generally most people are afraid to even seek help for their mental health because they think at these hospitals, they might end up getting infected because of the virus’ subtle mode of transmission and contraction.”
Mr Christopher Agbega, Covid – 19 Project Coordinator at the GFD emphasized the need for government to prioritise Persons with Disability in the allocation of Covid -9 vaccines when it arrive in the country next month.
By Mohammed Suleman