Executive Director of The Ark Foundation, Angela Dwamena Aboagye
Ark Foundation Executive Director Angela Dwamena Aboagye has challenged relevant institutions, both state and private, to pay attention to conditions that contribute to mental illness in the general populace.
On Monday, the Accra Psychiatric Hospital sent home 30 treated and discharged patients from the Eastern and Volta regions to decongest hospital facilities and reunite the patients with their families.
According to hospital authorities, these patients, some of whom have been residents of the psychiatric facility for up to 20 years, had been abandoned by their families despite receiving full treatment.
Expressing her views on the matter on Joy News' Current Affairs Programme pm: EXPRESS, Angela Dwamena Aboagye, who admitted that she was a mental health survivor for close to three years, said, “if the problem of mental health is underestimated, by 2020 to 2025, we will be getting a huge population [mentally ill persons] because of factors of migration, poverty, social conditions, and stress at work. It is therefore important for the country to pay attention to these conditions.”
The statistics of Mental Health in Ghana paint a rather gloomy picture, even with the passage into law of the Mental Health Bill. Research reveals that 49 out of every 50 people with mental health problems do not receive any treatment, while there hardly any services are available for children.
Ghana currently has three specialized psychiatric hospitals, all within close proximity to the capital. Care is provided only to a small portion of the population. One of the objectives of the Mental Health Act is to ensure that over the next 10 years, public education will make mental health awareness widespread in Ghana.
The law also seeks to depart from the residential system of psychiatric care to a system of community-based care through specialized regional and district centers across the country.
This, according to Mrs. Dwamena Aboagye, will require more funding and a complete break from the way mental health issue have been addressed in the past.
Peter Yaro, the Executive Director of Basic Needs Ghana, an NGO involved in mental health issues, also appeared on the show, where he added that Ghana had been long overdue for last year’s passage of the Mental Health Act, which the president also assented to.
Dr. Akwasi Osei, Medical Director of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, joined the discussion via telephone, noting that the reintegration of a projected 450 patients (over the next 12 months), will not pose any danger to the society.
In the next ten years, the law will look at increasing the current number of psychiatrists in Ghana from 14 to 100. In addition, other health workers such as psychiatric nurses, clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers and psychiatric medical assistants, traditional and faith-based healers among others, will receive training and be used as front-liners.
This, according to Mrs. Dwamena Aboagye, is a good step given that the country has only a few health practitioners and even fewer psychiatric health practitioners.
She told show host Stephen Anti that, “the problem with mental health generally is that governments over the years have not prioritized social protection issues in their budgetary allocations.”
The general view is that Ghana as a country needs to pay a lot more attention to mental health care during its journey to upper middle-income status.