Hope for Future Generations (HFFG), a Ghanaian community based, not-for-profit organization, is calling on the Government of Ghana, civil society and development partners to prioritise and invest in interventions aimed at addressing stigma and discrimination related to disability, and mental health conditions in Ghana.
The organisation is also calling on the government of Ghana to increase allocation of funds to mental health institutions and sustainably support people with mental health conditions across the country.
HFFG is a grantee under the UK Aid funded Ghana Somubi Dwumadie, a four-year disability programme with a specific focus on mental health. This initiative is supporting efforts to remove barriers which prevent people with disabilities, including mental health conditions from reaching their full potential.
In a press statement to mark the 2021 World Mental Health Day, HFFG said that though efforts have been made by the Government of Ghana through the Mental Health Authority to reduce the negative and discriminatory attitudes, behaviours and norms faced by people with mental health conditions, many people are still denied equitable access to health and social opportunities due to their mental health conditions, and that needs to be addressed.
World Mental Health Day is commemorated globally on 10th October each year with focus on mental health education, awareness and policy advocacy. The theme for this year is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’.
According to a 2020 study conducted by the Ghana Somubi Programme supported by the Government of UK, stigma and discrimination related to disability and mental health conditions are widespread in Ghana. The study identified language around disability and mental health conditions, lack of community and family support, cultural and religious beliefs, and lack of enforcement of laws as major drivers of stigma and discrimination faced by people with disabilities, including those with mental health conditions.
Making reference to this study, the Executive Director of HFFG, Mrs. Cecilia Senoo said:
“This is a continuous disincentive to breaking the barriers of mental health. It is sad that in Ghana, mental health institutions are under resourced and the support from corporate Ghana is also negligible compared to other areas that their funds go to. Elderly women in parts of the Northern Region regardless of the closure of the Gambaga Witches Camp still suffer being lynched by family and community members because of mental health conditions. The suicides and suicidal tendencies are all as a result of lack of support and understanding of peoples mental health problems.”
She said: “Mental health is a public health concern and we as a country cannot achieve much unless we make mental health everybody’s business.”
She noted that as a grantee under the Ghana Somubi Dwumadie programme together with the PsyKForum, HFFG is advocating that Mental health education and wellness must be part of the Ghanaian syllabus at all levels, saying: “Provision of psychosocial support and counselling should be made very accessible to all by setting up call centres and including mental health services on their essential treatment list of the National Health Insurance Scheme.”
Mrs. Senoo said: “law enforcement agencies and duty bearers need to be more responsive in the internalization of mental health policies to protect these vulnerable group so that they can live up to their full potential and contribute meaningfully to the development of themselves, families and Ghana at large.”
HFFG in the statement also congratulated persons with mental health conditions, mental health professionals, families, caregivers, state institutions, civil society and corporate institutions playing integral roles to make mental health relevant in Ghana.
The Ghana Somubi Dwumadie Programme is run by an Options-led consortium which consists of BasicNeeds-Ghana, King's College London, Sightsavers, International and Tropical Health.