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10.12.2004 General News

GHS takes measures to protect mental patients

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Ankaful (C/R), Dec.10, GNA- The mental health unit of the Ghana Health Service, is collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to review and update the nation's mental health law, to make it unlawful to put mental patients in chains.

The medical director of the Ankaful psychiatric hospital, Dr Akwasi Osei, announced this at an end-of-year party for staff and patients of the hospital, on Thursday.

He stressed that such practices, not only dehumanise mental patients but also leads to further stigmatisation, and therefore sounded a note of warning to prayer camps and traditional healers who are in the habit of doing so.

He however, disclosed that the GHS, was currently in contact with prayer camp owners and traditional healers, to educate them about the process, in order to ensure that they are brought abreast of it, when it becomes operational.

The medical director, also expressed concern about the effects of alcohol on the nation's human resource, and suggested a PSI, that would ensure the production of industrial ether, rather than the mass brewing and consumption of akpeteshie, resulting from the boom in the cultivation of oil palm, due to the PSI on the crop. According to him, apart from producing mental disorders, alcohol, also causes epilepsy and diabetes, and damages vital human organs like the liver and the heart.

Dr Osei, further stated that alcohol was also a significant cause of motor accidents, in addition to causing economic hardship and the disintegration of families.

Giving a breakdown of cases so far handled by the hospital this year, he said from January to November this year, 30,663 cases comprising 15,909 males and 14,754 females, with 19,000 of them being between 20 and 60 years.

According to him, the hospital handled 6,629 new cases within the period, more than the total number of news cases handled from January to December last year.

He described as worrying, the fact that the nation's workforce was "being eaten up by mental illness", and that the top 10 cases of OPD attendance include epilepsy, drug abuse, mania, depression and schizophrenia.

Dr Osei was unhappy that plans to set up counselling centres in towns to particularly educate the youth on the effects of drug abuse, have not materialised due to shortage of staff.

He was therefore, hopeful that the problem would soon be solved, as more psychiatric nurses are being trained at the Ankaful nurses training college.

Bishop Daniel Allotey, bishop of the Cape Coast diocese of the Anglican Church, who was the special guest of honour, echoed calls on the need for families and the society in general, to refrain from discriminating against people with mental illnesses.

He stressed that such people, were also part of God's creation, and was happy that they are no longer being referred to as mad, but as mental patients.

Bishop Allotey, pledged the Church's preparedness to continue to give spiritual and material support to the inmates of the hospital. Two of the patients, were crowned Mr and Mrs Ankaful, and awarded prizes for placing first in a dancing competion held during the party. 10 December, 04

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