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17.01.2011 Health

Facing Mental Health Challenges

By Daily Graphic
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The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there are many mental disorders which are classified under 10 broad groups. Some of these are disease of the brain, disorders related to the use of mind-altering (psychoactive) drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, heroin, marijuana (wee) and sleeping tablets.

Other mental challenges include issues associated with abnormal beliefs and the loss of control of mood when the individual may become overly sad without the ability to feel pleasure, referred to as depression.

The mentally sick person, from the layman’s point of view, is the one who behaves in an abnormal manner and, therefore, exhibits signs of having a problem. At times we refer to such people as being insane or mad.

The news item in yesterday’s issue of the paper that the Accra Psychiatric Hospital had declared a special exercise, dubbed ‘Operation 600 Patients Home’, under which patients who had long recovered but refused to go home would be forcibly sent to their families did not come as a surprise.

The latest development clearly demonstrates the hospital’s frustration at getting relatives of cured inmates of the hospital to come for them, compelling it to resort to their forced ejection from the hospital as the last option.

Many reasons account for the hospital’s decision. In the first place, the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, which was built in 1906, has a capacity for 800 patients but currently houses 1,200 inmates, including the 600 who have been declared cured.

For this reason, there is serious congestion at the hospital, making it difficult for other patients, some wandering the streets of Accra, to conveniently access mental health care at the facility.

Families tend to neglect their relatives who happen to find themselves in such situations because of the stigmatisation of mental patients.

Indeed, stigmatisation, as well as the lack of understanding of mental illness in the country, is one major problem that compounds efforts at curing mental patients. There is, therefore, the need for more education on mental health to enhance the public’s understanding of the issue to erase the perception of the public on mental illness.

Community care is critical in mental treatment, since, according to health experts, it makes patients feel a part of the community, instead of being caged in hospitals. But this demands the training of more staff to perform the enormous task.

The DAILY GRAPHIC calls on the government to put in the needed logistics and resources to enable staff of the psychiatric hospitals in the country to work more efficiently to address the challenges posed by mental illness.

There is the need for the provision of adequate infrastructure and logistics for the training of community psychiatric nurses to encourage community health care with the view to bringing patients closer to their families.

It is only through such pragmatic steps that the nation can avoid the danger we will all be exposed to if cured mental patients make the psychiatric hospitals their perpetual home.

The Daily Graphic calls on Parliament to pass the Mental Health Bill, which will lead to the decentralisation of the mental hospitals and help provide easy access for mental treatment across the country.

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