Health News of 2014-03-22

Stigma, discrimination affecting mental health care

The Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority (MHA), Dr Akwasi Osei, has identified stigmatisation and discrimination as some of the factors contributing to poor delivery of mental healthcare services.

“A significant problem militating against mental health delivery is that there is still not enough psychologists, psychological nurses and psychiatric clinics in the country, especially in the three northern regions,” he added.

Other factors he identified included lack of human resources and lack of funds. Dr Osei made these observations at a forum which sought to educate health directorate and staff of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) on the Mental Health Law (Act 846) in Accra.

He said education on the Mental Health Law (Act 846) would enable health workers to improve upon mental healthcare services in the country.

Mental Health Law (Act 846)

The Mental Health Law (Act 846) was passed by Parliament on May 31, 2012, as a source of hope for people living with mental illness and to introduce a new ideal to which health service or caregivers were to aim at.

The act, among other things, focuses on admission of a voluntary patient, order for prolonged treatment, standard of treatment, basic human rights, proper aftercare services, emphasis on appointment of clinical coordinators and hospital directors, and administration of the MHA.

Dr Osei said the act emphasised the need to train traditional and faith healers to ‘unchain’ individuals with mental illness because it was considered a human rights abuse.

He said the act had put in place a mental health fund which could be used in training human resource practitioners and providing other incentives that would attract people to the sector.

Vision of the Mental Health Authority

He also said the vision of the MHA was to mobilise a crisis intervention team to assist communities on mental problems, hotline services to provide citizens with the necessary information on mental healthcare, establish homes for mentally impaired children and the aged.

To reduce transportation costs in accessing mental healthcare, Dr Osei said mental health services would be provided in the community health facilities, and regional hospitals would have psychiatric wings to provide mental health services.

In his address, the Executive Director of Basic Needs Ghana, Mr Yaro Badimak Peter, described the Mental Health Law (Act 846) as ‘a doorstep of hope and for a change.’

He added that there was the need to educate the public on mental health because it was a silent crisis which was increasing.

“Anybody can be mentally ill at any time but people need to know that it can be treated,” he added.