More than 2.4 million Ghanaians, representing about 10 per cent of the population, are suffering from mental illness according to the 2010 population census.
The Executive Director of Basic Needs Ghana, Mr. Badimak Peter Yaro, who disclosed this in an interview with The Ghanaian Times on the sidelines of a two-day seminar of regional teams on strengthening integration of mental health into primary health care said the figure must be a worry to stakeholders.
The country had reached this point because the needed attention had not been given to mental health care delivery; Mr. Badimak added imagining what impacts the economic contributions of the affected persons could have on national development.
“For a long time”, Mr. Peter Yaro said, “people have not understood mental health well and even governments appreciation of the need to invest in mental health has been low” but the situation could be remedied if all stakeholders adopted holistic approach to tackling mental health.
This, he said, could be done by decentralizing the mental health care delivery system to the community level so as to make care of the condition accessible.
Mr. Badimak noted that the centralization of mental health care and the stigma patients suffer within the community were factors why many people, led by their families and friends, don’t seek treatment for their conditions.
“We NGO’s in mental health care delivery want to see mental health care service available from the most basic health care facility available including Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compounds” and this could help in slowing the pace of acute mental health casualties because people at those level would have access to medication.
Mental conditions, he said, were treatable and that there was no point in discriminating against mental patients because “it is a condition anyone could suffer from.”
Asked what the state of mental health care delivery was in the country, Mr. Yaro labeled the sector as largely neglected and one that lacks the attention from stakeholders.
“We have a population that is not very well informed, a health system that is not have adequate support for mental health care,” he said stressing the need for greater commitment to the aspect of health care delivery.
He wants the Mental Health Authority to be given the support other health sector agencies were receiving from governments and stakeholders and if this was done, the situation would change for the better.
Opening the seminar, the Greater Accra Regional Director of the Ghana health Service, Dr. Linda Vanotoo, reiterated the need for all stakeholders in the sector to help tackle challenges confronting the mental health sector.
“Mental Health is a human and a gender issue hence the need for the integration because we as potters in this sector need to do a good job,” she added.
The integration of mental health care into the primary health care system was critical as Ghana is a signatory to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The meeting organized by Basic Needs, an international non-governmental organization working to improve the lives of people living with mental illness and epilepsy, was attended by officials of the Ghana Health Service, the Mental Health Authority, the Department of International Development, the Christian health Association of Ghana among other civil society organizations.