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17.04.2007 Health

The Plight of Ghanaians with Mental Health problems

By
The Plight of Ghanaians with Mental Health problems

Stop the labelling of the Ghanaians with Mental Health problems as “Lunatics”.

I wonder what the Director of Ghana Mental Health Services, Minister of Health would think, seeing such headlines in our newspapers as attached www.ghanaweb.com: General News of Friday, 13 April 2007
Mentally ill people still roam Accra streets

Accra, April 13, GNA - Prior to the climax of the 50th anniversary celebrations on March 6, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) decided to embark on an exercise to rid the city of the mentally ill on the streets. How could Ghana get rid of this vulnerable group among us? Could Ghana or Africa rid its cities of people with mental disturbance on its streets?

Are there ways of working in partnership with the Mental Health Service to come up with alternative way of channelling the energies of this vulnerable group other than getting rid of them? As highlighted by Mr. John Appiah, Public Relations Officer of the AMA, the exercise could not come on because the [email protected] Secretariat, which had promised to provide some 800,000 million cedis for a cleanup and the exercise to rid the city of lunatics, failed to do so.

This is when accountability comes in and the Ghana @ 50 Secretariat needs to be hold to account. It appears everything was in place with professional committee, which included AMA, Ministry of Health and Department of Social Welfare was set up by the government to be responsible for the exercise. Does the [email protected] Secretariat inform the President that he needed more funds for the given job?

This exercise is even more significant than the celebrations of Ghana @50 as the problems are still staring at us and discrediting our country?

Why I agree with Mr Appiah that about all the concerns he raised, how could he call the mentally disturbed group within our communities' lunatics? Lunatics we could all head towards that way in a given time. Nine million cedis is not enough for the exercise and they are quite right to in demanding that the Ministry of Finance should give them money for the exercise. Why are people in key position failing the vulnerable group within our society? We were happy to spend so much of importing brand new vehicles for Diplomats coming into our country for the celebrations, which was good. On the other hand, could we have leased the vehicles from neighbouring countries and focused on strategically implementing long-term objectives for the plight for our vulnerable group now termed as “lunatics” in our society?

The Public Affairs Officer of [email protected] Secretariat, Mr Henry Okyne reported that before the celebrations, the Secretariat gave AMA nine billion cedis for sanitation exercises, which included the confinement of the mentally ill on the streets of Accra. It was therefore unable to allocate more money for that exercise. Did the Ghana @ 50 Secretariat really estimate the cost this exercise?

I would refer the Secretariat for Ghana @50, Director of AMA and the Minister of Tourism to the attached Maslow Hierarchy of needs. In which category do they see the vulnerable group with our society?

Maslow Hierarchy of needs
Needs level General rewards Organisational factors

Physiological
Food, water, sex, sleep Pay
Pleasant working conditions
Cafeteria
Safety Safety, security, stability, protection Safe working conditions
Company benefits
Job security
Social Love, affection, belonginess Cohesive work group
Friendship supervision
Professional associations
Esteem Self esteem, self respect.presitage, status Social recognition
Job title
High status job
Feedback from the job itself

Self actualisation

Growth, advancement, creativity Challenging job
Opportunities for creativity
Achievement in work
Advancement in the organisation
Mullins, L J., (1999) 5th ed. Management and Organisational Behaviour,

Would it be fair to say that in Ghana about 60% of the population are still at the first stage of this hierarchy? How could we move on to the next stage?

Our system must acknowledge that, the plight of the vulnerable group must be taken as cause for concern. It is poverty that has caused so many people to end up in mental health hospitals.
Our system may be failing its people and hence people are falling through the net, as there is no safety catch in place within it. Or is there any?

Let's stop the labelling of the vulnerable group within our society and rather we need to work with them integrating perhaps art and craft could be sold at top hotels to earn money hard currencies to renovate our appalling state mental health hospitals throughout the country. Indeed, this group needs a care package that would empower them not only to part of the community but also to contribute to the economic of their community.

I would also recommend that, the Ministry of Health invite mental health workers particularly from the U.K and Sweden, Denmark and other countries with a track record to share best practice with Ghana. They be invited group therapy or enlightened mental health nurses with alternative therapies. For example, integrating businesses community, catering, hairdressing, gardening and others to facilitate empowering the patients.

Farming is also an excellent way of relieving stress and focusing on basic things and nature. The medications that these group need means they need a high intake of good nutrition but not just kenkey, fish and pepper or beans and gari plus oil. This is why it is important to integrate other alternatives for example, if they are able to grow vegetables and others then there is pleasure-taking pride of their achievements. In this way, patients would be feed with their own grown organic food stuffs, and eat in abundance thus happy enough to be creative.

On a different level, psychiatric hospitals could hold competitions for the best farmer award day. Or best basket weaver or kente award etc. These are all incentives and certificates that could be given to motivate and boost these patients of their self worth and esteem.

Taking these measures seriously would stop our vulnerable group roaming our streets rather than locking them up in confinements of psychiatric hospitals. Who knows whom the next patient would be? It could be you or I being labelled as lunatics by our system tomorrow!

Perhaps weekly health education of the general public would raise awareness and the seriousness of mental health.

The facts are any of us the so-called well stable Ghanaians could easily falls into this category. The Director of Mental and the community may be to work together and share what is the best practice to globally which is worth emulating in our country.

It is about time we tackle the plight people with mental disturbance within our society and stop the labelling exercise.

Which of us could stand tall and tap their chest to say that yes, they have reached their self-actualisation stage, based on what Maslow expects from people who have made it in life.

It is only 1 % of our population who would proudly raise their hands up. The rest of us could easily fall below this mark. Who are we to label our fellow Ghanaian in this predicament as ” lunatics”? Are we that ignorant?

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