28.02.2008 Health

Over 16,691 people suffer from mental illness and epilepsy

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There over 16,691 mental and epileptic patients in the country, with 14,796 of them coming from the three northern regions.

Out of the number 6,959 are suffering form epilepsy with 729 cases of epilepsy in the Tamale Metropolis alone.

This implies that about six per cent of the country's workforce that could have contributed to national development cannot do so because of their condition.

The Country Programme Manager of BasicNeeds, a non-governmental organisation, Mr. Yaro Badimak Peter, said this at a one-day workshop on Mental Health for media practitioners in the Northern Region in Tamale.

The workshop was organised by BasicNeeds, which is involved in the treatment and also providing assistance to mentally ill people and their carers.

Mr. Peter said about 90 per cent of the mental patients were receiving treatment from psychiatric units with a significant number of them having their conditions stabilised and being able to do something for themselves.

He expressed regret at the current situation where mental patients were left to their fate, and suggested that community psychiatry should be made part of primary health care.

Mr. Peter said community based rehabilitation ensured the active participation of family and the community and this “does not rob the mentally ill person of his social links resulting from extreme restrictions nor does it create dependence and reduce opportunities.”

He said community participation in the treatment of mental patients allowed for shared burden with little to do about re-integration adding that.

Mr. Peter said the NGO was faced with a lot of challenges including the high level of stigma attached to mental patients as well as the lack of understanding of the linkage between mental health and development.

Mr. Anthony Akudugu, a Principal Nursing Officer of the Presbyterian Health Services in Bawku, said something urgent needed to be done to fill the vacancies being created with the retirement of ageing psychiatric nurses in the sector.

He expressed concern that many young people who studied psychiatry were not willing to serve in Ghana.

According to him the situation was also not being helped by the conduct of other nurses and the general public who continued to ridicule psychiatric nurses, calling them "mad doctors".

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