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3 July 2013 | Opinion/Feature


Mary Sefa Boampong (Mrs)

The issue of mental health is of great concern to individuals, families, groups, nations and the international community at large. This is due to its effect on human resource and quality of life. Besides, its economic and social impact is enormous. According to World Health Organization (2001), mental and behavioral disorders represent five of the top ten diseases burden globally.

In most advanced world, it is not common to see mental patients along the major street and pavement begging for arms. This may be due to proper structures put in place to curb the situation. The 1950s deinstitutionalization has dominated mental healthcare reforms throughout Western Europe. Large asylums have been closed and the total numbers of psychiatric hospital beds has fallen dramatically (BMJ Group, 2005). Besides, communities are developed through substantial additional investment and specialized teams such as assertive outreach and early intervention.

However, in Ghana some mental patients are confined in specific institutions such as Pantang hospital, Accra psychiatric hospital among others. This and other factors may account for widespread of stigmatization and discrimination of people with mental illness. It is common to see mental patients with tattered clothes, poor, dirty, hungry, neglected, isolated, and sometimes lynched. The role of supernatural, religious and magical approaches to mental illness is prevailing. Stigma experienced from family members is pervasive (Lauber and Rossler 2007).

Despite the substantial adverse impact of poor mental health on productivity and quality of life, and the emerging availability of cost-effective treatment interventions, there remain many difficulties in trying to ensure that mental health both receives a fair level of education.

Regrettably the aftermath of the mental health law has been the same old story. Specifically, some of the provisions in the new Act include:

Improving access to in-patient and out-patient mental care in the communities which people live.

Regulation of mental health practitioners in both public and private sectors and traditional healers too, everywhere in communities and hospitals.

Combating of discrimination and stigmatization against people with mental illness and promoting their human rights among others.

Despite the above provisions, mental health issues in Ghana continue to presents a challenge. Although, mental health bill has been passed, provisions made have not been implemented. No permanent Board has been formed to address issues concerning mental illness. It is therefore not surprising to hear on air recently that some mental hospital might close down due to inadequate food and financial constraints.

In attempt to deal with some of the issues confronting mental illness, a benevolent organization, known as For all Africa Foundation, a mental health advocacy group, is pushing to change societal perceptions of persons with mental disorders through education. FAAF's mental health advocacy includes the variety of different actions aimed at changing the major structural and attitudinal barriers to achieving positive mental health outcomes in Ghana.

The concept of FAAF's mental health advocacy has been developed to:

Critique actions of the government of Ghana and prod policy makers, to improve services, and treatment of people with mental disorders.

Debunk myths about people with mental disorders, spread basic information about mental disorders and how to maintain good mental health.

FAAF's believe clients themselves are an interactive awareness campaign. Their participation in FAAF's community activities are more of an illustration as to the positive face of mental illness than any campaign. As people understand best through experience and change their opinions only when they are confronted with undeniable evidence, the role of FAAF clients is clear; to disprove the stereotypes through their own actions and attitudes.

The development of advocacy movement could facilitate the implementation of mental health policy and legislation. Populations could receive many benefits as a result of this. The needs of persons with mental disorders could be better understood and their rights could be better protected. They could receive services of improved quality and could participate actively in their planning, development, monitoring and evaluation. Families could be supported in their home as careers, and populations at large could gain an improved understanding of mental health and disorders. These may go a long way to reduce stigmatization and discrimination of mental patients and their world may be a little enjoyable if not completely promising. This may be possible if individuals, families, societies, groups and the nation at large embrace mental illness as any sickness which affect humanity and is curable.
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