The World Economic Forum estimates that mental illnesses will account for more than half of the economic burden of disease over the next two decades – more than cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases combined. In high-income countries, more than 35% of people with mental disorders receive no treatment. This rate can increase to 85% for those in low- and middle-income countries. Statistics from the Mental Health Authority in Ghana indicates that about four million Ghanaians, out of the estimated population of 28million are suffering from mild to severe mental illnesses, with treatment gap hovering around 98% of the total population expected to have a mental disorder. From our Routine Monitoring and evaluation, it has emerged that an estimated number of 5.6 million active social media users in Ghana are at risk of suffering from various degrees of mental disorders with a woefully inadequate knowledge for detection, preventive and support systems to tackle the emerging trend.
WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?
Mental health is about a person’s feelings, thinking, emotions and moods. These can be small or big situations one experiences on a daily basis. The small situations could be strong and sometimes overwhelming; whether happy or sad but go away before long. The big conditions can equally be strong and overwhelming and has the potential of stopping a person from doing what one wants to do in life. This development across the nation is depicted by the African proverb which says; "Not all men who walk in the street naked are crazy". In other words there is a significant number of Ghanaians in our offices, Homes, Churches, Mosques and other Communities who are battling with Mental Illnesses with little or no attention at all.
Mental health affects [“me,” or “someone I love”] — and 1 in 4 people in the world. In many cases, due to limited funding, resources or stereotypes, people may not receive help when they most need it. We at Child Online Africa (COA) can change that by teaming up with campaigners of mental health to crystalize efforts on the subject. A Week to Change Direction is happening June 9-15 and is a week of action, advocacy, culture change and fundraising to raise awareness of and increase support for efforts that are working to change the culture of mental health globally.
As a child focused research and advocacy based non-governmental organization that campaigns for/with children and young people and their families to influence policies and change practices that affects Well-Being; we feel there is a strong correlation between mental health, protection and safety. This is simple; because people express their feelings online all the time regardless of their ages.
The above observation is as a result of a significantly reduced human or social interactions by these active users who are often found of resorting to social media to express their emotions online, only to receive likes, funny Emojis and even in worse scenarios disparaging comment as a response to their plights.
As we commence the campaign To Change Direction, COA recommends the following areas through which we can make the conversation about mental health normal;
- That faith-based organizations will refrain from citing all forms of mental disorders as spiritual problems and help by devoting a Considerable time in fellowship to educate Congregants on mental well-being.
- That the Mental Health Authority Collaborates with all relevant stakeholders including Civil Society Organizations to reduce treatment gap and to develop supportive ways of detecting preventing and tackling the new trend of mental disorders in all spaces in Ghana.
- That the government of Ghana through the Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Health and other relevant agencies to conduct a study which intersect well-being and technology in order to design solutions which will cover agency use, professional use, and employees' personal use of such platforms on social media platforms.
We all have a critical role to play as we change mental health for everyone, everywhere. Follow @SignsForChange on Twitter, and participate in the conversations happening online by using the hashtag #ChangeDirection in your posts.
Awo Aidam Amenyah