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20.10.2004 General News

New law to protect rights of mentally ill SOON

By GNA

Accra, Oct. 20, GNA - The Mental Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), has produced a draft on the new mental health law, which, when passed, would guarantee humane care and protection of the rights of the mentally ill in the country.

Dr. Sammy Allotey, Specialist in-charge of the Pantang Hospital said at the launch of this year's World Mental Health day in Accra that the new law would provide for community mental health care and regulate private, traditional and spiritual mental health care practices. The day, organized by the GHS was on the theme: "The Relationship Between Physical and Mental Health: Co-occurring Disorders.'' It highlights the interdependence of physical and mental health as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) that: " Health is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being."

Dr. Allotey said the old law was obsolete, hospital oriented and influenced by the Lunatic Asylum Ordinance of 1888. He said even though the law had been replaced with the N.R.C. mental health decree 30 of 1972 it still did not show human rights concerns and had no backing for community mental health.

"It was vertical in orientation and do not take care of private mental health practitioners, traditional and spiritual healers and did not conform with current changes in the world'' he said.

Dr. Allotey said under the present administration, the unit accounts for almost three per cent of the total health budget with an improvement in the nature and delivery of psychiatric services. He said there were psychiatric units in eight regional hospitals and 58 districts in addition to the three government psychiatric hospitals and the three psychiatric clinics, adding that government should train more psychiatrists to take good care of the patients.

Professor C.C. Adomako, Lecturer of the Ghana Medical School said since mental disorders affects the patient's relationship with family, friends and even religious beliefs, the physician must be able to detect this and provide the necessary remedy.

He said the treatment of illness in general should be tackled in recognition with the patient's emotional and mental condition in order to achieve the best results.

Professor Adomako said the treatment of diseases like cancer, HIV/AIDS and Diabetes among others were supported by various organizations with mental health being neglected and appealed for assistance for activities in the unit.

Dr. Angela Ofori-Atta, Deputy Minister of Manpower Development Employment said government recognized the importance of a good mental health of the citizens, hence its decision to increase the budget for mental health three times from the year 2000.

She said mental illness was like any other sickness such as malaria or diabetes but the only difference is it being chronic and called for a collaborative effort to educate the public, especially families to support relatives who are mentally ill. 20, Oct. 04.

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