UCC medical students win Mental Health Competition
Students from the School of Medical Sciences (SMS) of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) have beaten two other top universities to scoop the awards of this year's inter-medical school public speaking competition.
The Sixth Edition of the inter-medical school competition, which was to project psychiatry as a rewarding career option for Ghanaian medical students, featured the UCC, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the University of Ghana medical schools.
The debate also formed part of activities marking the Mental Health Authority (MHA) Week, designed to stimulate the interest of students in the discipline, shunned by many medical students, and to practice after graduation.
It was organised by the MHA, and sponsored by the St Patrick University Hospital, Ireland, and the Vincent Agyapong Professional Corporation in Canada. It was on the topic: "Mental Health Delivery in Ghana Separation from General Healthcare Delivery; Part of the problem or part of the Solution."
Patrick Armah and Fransiwa Vande-Pallen - both level 500 students of UCC-SMS - as part of their prize - received a trophy. They would also be given full sponsorship to do four weeks add-on training at St Patrick University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland.
The University of Ghana Medical School students, who came second, would receive $1000. They would also do their attachment around psychiatry the country.
The competition, that lasted nearly two hours, was described by many spectators as “impressive” and “a great step towards finding lasting solution to the chronic problems confronting mental health care service delivery and practice in Ghana.”
KNUST fell to the bottom, after battling the two schools in two rounds of submissions.
The contestants, invariably, touched on staggering statistics that suggested real problems facing the Mental Health Service.
They said there were just around 1,515 beds for three psychiatric hospitals in the country – all located in the southern belt of Ghana – to care for 250,000 Ghanaians living with severe mental conditions, out of the over 2.82 million people with varied degrees of mental problems.
They also argued that only two per cent received treatment, while those who lived in Zebilla in the Upper East Region had to travel a distance of more than 614 kilometres to Kumasi in the Ashanti Region (nearest) to receive medical services.
They, therefore, suggested the full the integration of Mental Health into General Health care services, as being recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Dr Akwasi Osei, the Chief Executive Officer of MHA, said the competition would encourage the students to cultivate the culture of public speaking and stimulate their interest in specialising in psychiatry.
“The debate is to challenge the students of Medicine to able to speak in public, even more importantly, we want to use this to arouse their interest, so that when they finish their medical course and they are considering areas of specialisation, a good number of them will consider mental health care,” he told the Ghana News Agency.
He described the current state of Ghana’s mental health as “being in crisis that require multiple actions and support to tame the situation.”
“We realised that if we don’t arouse their interest at that stage, when they finish, there is a whole lot of competing interests, not bad in themselves, but a whole lot of other thoughts, fear of what mental health is, and what it is not,” he said.
Professor Vincent Agyepong, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Alberta, Canada, said the idea to engage medical students in debate came up in 2010, when he visited Ghana to teach at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry.
He said the whole idea was to try and stimulate medical students in Ghana to develop an interest in psychiatry since at the time there were only about five psychiatrists practising in Ghana with a population of about 25 million.
“This is only one way, the idea behind it is that the winner should go to Ireland and learn about Psychiatry and know that psychiatry is not all they see here [in Ghana] because if you go to Accra Psychiatric Hospital, conditions are deplorable, there is no medication for patients, there is no money for patients, so it is very depressing for medical students of Psychiatry to be working there.”
The competition has so far seen more that 16 Ghanaian medical students benefit from four weeks each of sponsored elective placements in two psychiatric hospitals, including the St John of God Hospital in Dublin.