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11.03.2009 Health

Navrongo marks Mental Health Day…as health expert calls for public support for mentally-ill persons

By William N-lanjerborr Jalulah - Ghanaian Chronicle

A DEPUTY Director of Nursing Services in the Psychiatry Unit in Bolgatanga, Mr. D. A. Akagwire, has appealed to the general public to assist the unit identify all mentally-ill persons, whether in the streets or at home. This would help diagnose and treat them.

Making a presentation last Thursday at Navrongo, during this year's Mental Health Day celebration, Mr. Akagwire disclosed that in 2008, the Psychiatry Unit captured 76 psychotics, 200 epileptics, 19 substance abusers, 49 neurotics and 20 depressives in the Kassena-Nankana District.

He observed that many of these people were roaming in the streets or locked in homes, and appealed to the general public to assist the Psychiatry Unity to identify, diagnose and treat them.

According to him, good mental health was when an individual could think clearly, solve problems they faced in life, enjoy happy relationships, and feel spiritually at ease.

On the other hand, mental illness was anything that affected a person's thoughts, emotions or behaviour that resulted in any negative effects on the person or those around them, an obvious change in their personality, or friends and relatives felt that what was happening to the person was strange and difficult to understand.

Mr. Akagwire said psychiatrists were interested in mental illness because it was very common, placed a great burden every country, caused great suffering and disability, could be treated cheaply and easily, and did not stop a person from having a good life or supporting their families.

He mentioned some of the causes of mental illness as any kind of serious physical illness, the use of illicit drugs, sustaining serious head injury, and relating to someone who has had a mental illness.

He also gave some of the types of mental illness as organic mental illness, delirium contusion, epilepsy, psychosis and anxiety disorders.

Mr. Akagwire said the three main treatments for mental illness included medicines used in correcting the levels of chemicals in one's brain; psychological treatment which helped the brains to learn to cope with the stressful things that were happening, and social treatment through building the best life possible.

Ms. Fati Alhassan, Regional Coordinator for the Alliance for Mental Health and Development, organisers of the celebration, noticed that today mental illness was a global problem, rendering many young people helpless.

She said if steps were not taken to reduce the incidence of mental illness in society, no proper development could take place.

Ms. Alhassan said the theme for this year's celebration; “Mental Health is key to development, support it”, was a clarion call to all and varied, especially district assemblies, to commit their resources to ensuring the abundance of healthy minds in the communities.

A representative from BasicNeeds Ghana, who represented the Programme Manager, Mr. Peter Yaro, regretted that at fifty-two, Ghana was still engulfed by mentally-ill persons, especially in the streets.

Commending organisers of the celebration for their bold steps in curbing mental illness, the representative also called for concerted efforts from all stakeholders, including the Ghana Health Service, to seriously fight the menace of mental illness.