MENTAL HEALTH, STIGMA AND THE ROLE OF SOCIETY
It was a relief, exciting and heartwarming to hear the Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Akwasi Osei embarked on an exercise dubbed “Operation 600 Patients Home” thereby relieving the Accra Psychiatric Hospital and State the burden of caring for cured mental patients and taking off the pressure being exerted on the national purse as well as the facility which was originally built for 800 inmates.
Nonetheless, an age old idiosyncrasy which claims without proves that mental diseases are not curable gives way to modern day Scientific might. This traditional belief which is often strictly adhered to can be doing more harm to our society than one could imagine.
The failure of these cured mental Patients to join their families and society emanate from traditionally held thoughts, which they have been part of and perhaps never made any attempt to influence. There is this century rumor that mental diseases are transferable, hence both the cured Patient and their families are prevented from marrying and receiving marriage. This is based on the erroneous belief that all other members of such families are susceptible or are likely to be mentally insane too. Nevertheless, this weird antique tradition which lacks merit and will receive the marching orders in any civilised human community is astonishingly enjoying respite among even the elite in our part of the world. At the center of this traumatised thinking are the highly educated and mentored in our communities. Belief of this nature will always serve as draw back in our quest to achieve a society where science is the dominate force.
Additionally the refusal to return to society is also on the bases of stigmatization. Generally Psychology sees stigma as inimical to self and social development. There are two levels of stigmatisation; direct stigma of those who have suffered a humiliating situation, and the indirect stigma of the dependence of the stigmatised. In this case, the cured Mental Patients and their immediate families will endure this evil. Husbands and wives of some of these cured Patients might have divorced them prior to being admitted to the Mental Hospital to prevent their families from been isolated by society.
Although the Accra Psychiatric Hospital has taken a stride worth mentioning, but the question still remains, was the proper restitutive measures done prior to the reintegration of these cured Patients by way of sensitizing the communities they belong? For the reason that, failure of society to play her role of offering a receptive environment to these cured Patients will be the surest and the rocket which would propel these relieved mental brothers and sisters back to the Mental facility in no time. The healing process is yet to start with the stein appeal to the social convey to get involved with these unfortunate relations who suffered a disease which is just like any other. Families and especially the members of the communities they belong to are expected to play their varied roles to empower these cured Patients to mount the stage of life once again to pick their cast social roles as social actors.
Again, society should not only share pleasantries and welcome cured Patients to social functions, but they should be placed at positions of trust where they can also contribute to decision making. The restituted cured Patients should be offered challenges that will bring out their real potential which will be of immense relevance to Ghana.The cured Patients should also avail themselves to enable society to come to terms with the real truth that mental diseases are curable and for that matter those who have suffered it can still recover and yet contribute meaningfully. Equally these cured Patients should also eschew the tendencies which culminated to their visit to the mental facility.
In spite of the issues raised, the nation also has a duty to discharge towards a mental free society by investing resources for research into the causes of these Psychological problems. Organizations are to be implored to hire the services of Psychologist to do away with industrial stress. Besides, it is a recognized recommendation for these specialists to be present in firms. How many organizations have Psychologist at post? When these specialists are employed they help do away with elements of anxiety, stress and ultimately depression, which Abnormal Psychology refers to as the common cold of a psychiatric problem.
Calls have been made for the Legislature to expedite action on the passage into law, the Mental Health Bill. It is a call in the right direction, but the society is the main obstacle to improve on a mental free ambiance. Mental health education is the means by which society will embrace cured mental Patients as in the case of the 600 inmates of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital. It is one thing passing laws and another for those the legislation is meant for to recognise it. To this end, let the law makers be reminded that this is an issue that borders on century's old held belief hence; to win; the advocates of the Mental Health Bill should consider education. For in every civilised human community the breath of life is discourse.
It is delightful to see the successful restitution of these country men and women in to society, but there is the need for authorities at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital not to presume the integration as the end of their role to achieve the quest to ride the facility of cured inmates. Community health authorities should follow up for a while to observe the reception these cured Patients are enjoying in their various communities.
Society should be up and smile the roses, for these cured fellows of ours need us to pick up the pieces from where a while ago they left off.