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06.11.2007 General News

Mentally Ill Patients Unite With Families

The first batch of 27 mentally ill patients who have been at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital for a long time have successfully undergone treatment and integrated with their families in the Ashanti Region.

The exercise is part of a campaign to remove the stigma attached to mentally ill patients who were often rejected by their families when admitted to psychiatric hospitals in the country.

It is also aimed at clearing the congestion at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, which currently has 1,200 patients on admission instead of the 200 patients that the hospital has capacity to admit.

Mr David Macauley, Quality Assurance Co-ordinator of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, who made this known, said the current nurse-patient ratio at the hospital was between 100 and 160 patients per a nurse.

He said what had made it alarming was that most of the experienced staff were due for retirement and the young ones needed experience and courage to cope with patients who were sometimes violent when it came to administering drug to them.

He said because education about mental illnesses had been intensified many people now had understood the need for mental health and so patronised the hospital with the Out-patient Department recording more than 300 patients daily.

He said this was the first time that all the 27 patients who were sent home had not been rejected by their family members.

He said previous exercises failed because the family members totally rejected them, explaining that once they had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, they still had traces of mental illness.

He explained that the intelligence of mental patients was intact because mental illness affected only behaviour change.

He said currently the Accra Psychiatric Hospital was spending over ¢1 billion a month to feed the patients on admission.

He appealed to Ghanaians to discard the notion that mental illness was not curable and stop sending the mental patients to churches and herbalists who chained them and made them fast, which was not good for them.

He said the chaining of patients increased the incidence of infections by bacteria and advised them to report mental cases to hospital.

Mr Macauley deplored the attitude of rounding up mental patients in Accra by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and dumping them at psychiatric hospital when the city was hosting any international event.

He urged the District Assemblies to assist by providing the psychiatric hospitals in the country with funds to take adequate care of the patients so that they could return to normal life and to their businesses.

He said most of the patients in the three psychiatric hospitals were farmers, fishermen and artisans who, when treated, could go about their businesses and help with the economic development of the country.

Mr Macauley said the Ministry of Health had sent a bill to Parliament which would in the future make psychiatry part of every health institution in the country.

He said the law would also provide for community-based psychiatric centres instead of the current institutionally-based treatment centres, to help erase the stigma attached to mental illness in the country.

Story by Abdul Aziz