Dr Collins Badu Agyemang, National President of the Ghana Psychological Association (GPA), says Ghana is currently experiencing a “mental illness inflation.”
He attributed the problem to stress, anxiety, and loss of jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the increase in crime, violence amongst the youth and high level of unemployment, amongst others.
Dr Agyemang said in terms of policy making and budgetary allocations at the national level, much was needed to be done to strengthen the relevance of psychological health in Ghana.
He said this on Monday during the launch of the Ghana Psychology Week 2022 in Accra.
The celebration is themed: “Scaling up Psychology and its practice in the post-pandemic future: Reaching out to the vulnerable.”
The lineup of activities include a visit to the Nsawam Orthopedic Training Centre to offer psychological support to staff and patients and a visit to the Nungua orphanage to offer psychological services to the children.
They Association will also hold a social engagement with community and schools and the Sixth Scientific Biennial International Research Conference at the Methodist University College.
He advised citizens to look out for one another and be concerned about each other's psychological or mental health.
“Socially, we all have a part to play when it comes to holistic health. We want to be on the lookout to check on our brothers and family members. We want to be very observant. If you are with a family member, a friend, a colleague at work and you realize the behavioural patterns continue to change; they are becoming unduly quiet or the other extreme, they are overly excited, or you can see that they are not who they used to be, you may want to take the initiative to get close to these ones to find things out.”
“Look out for their statements and songs they sing. These are all wake up calls or signs that they may be going through traumatic experiences in their life and need help. Let us give them our ears, listen to them as they share their experiences, and what they are going through and recommend that they see a psychologist from any nearby hospital,” he said.
The National President advised against allowing oneself to be needlessly stressed and take life one step at a time.
“Always have a reason to be excited each day. This will reduce the enormous stress we put on ourselves. Thinking and worrying about things you have no options about is like sitting in a rocking chair. It would not change anything, but it gives you something to do. So, we need not worry; we need not think when we cannot do much about it but rather seek help from psychologists so they can support us,” he said.
Dr Yaw Amankwa Arthur, Deputy Director, Mental Health Authority (MHA), said psychological services received low patronage in times past because of the stigma attached to people who sought such assistance.
However, he said in recent times, the patronage had increased due to the understanding of mental health and its importance to one's overall wellbeing.
Dr Arthur advised that citizens prioritised mental health and seek immediate assistance anytime the need arose.
“Everybody is saying 'I am stressed out,' but it is more than being stressed out. There are more underlying psychological issues that people are doing. The impact of COVID, losing jobs, losing loved one's work stress and all that.”
“People are suffering, but they do not know how to deal with them. So, my simple advice is that those with psychological issues out there should go into our facilities, health facilities, be it a Regional Hospital or a District Hospital for help” he said.