Regional News Sat, 19 Mar 2005

Students urged to consider psychiatry as career

Accra, March 19 GNA - Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) on Saturday urged Medical students to consider psychiatry as a career option. He said the future for psychiatry was bright and may offer better incentives to the students who take it as a profession. Prof. Akosa was speaking at the second Annual General and Scientific meeting of the Ghana Psychiatric Association (GPA) in Accra. The meeting, which was on theme: "Physical and Mental health across the life span" was aimed at highlighting the interdependence of physical and mental health as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

He called on the members of the Association to attract more final year medical students to specialise in the mental health profession.

Prof. Akosa also called for the establishment of more private psychiatry practice to augment the few in the country.

Dr. Samuel K. Allotey, President of the GPA called on the government to create "Special conditions for psychiatric services" to attract more mental health professionals.

He said extra benefits including risk allowance and free accommodation that were abolished in 1972 should be restored. Dr. Allotey who is also in charge of the Pantang Psychiatric Hospital said challenges facing mental health delivery in Ghana were becoming difficult as psychiatrists, nurses and other mental health professionals expected to provide services to the increasing number of mentally ill patients were diminishing at a fast rate.

"There might be no psychiatrists to treat our patients within a couple of years.

There are only 16 psychiatrists in Ghana, ten of whom are retired and none is below 40 years, only two are below 50" he added.

Dr Allotey also said psychiatric treatment are constrained by ignorance of mental illness and the believe in spirits as many patients shy away from the psychiatric hospitals and centres, and rather resort to prayer camps, "mallams" and fetish shrines where they are sometimes abused and brutalised.

He said the GPA was advocating awareness creation by demystifying mental illness through collaborating with traditional and spiritual healers who are always the first point of call by distressed patients.

Dr Victor Doku, a Lecturer at the University of Ghana Medical School in his presentation on the topic: "Physical and mental health across the life span - HIV/AIDS perspective" said the assessment and treatment of patients with HIV/psychiatric problems could sometimes be difficult.

He called for collaboration between mental health professionals and HIV specialists in the handling of such patients. 19 March 05

Source: GNA