The Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Akwesi Osei, on Wednesday called on Parliament to urgently pass the National Mental Health Bill to help address the current wide treatment gap of about 98 per cent in the country.
“This means that only two out of every hundred people requiring mental health services in Ghana is able to get help”, he said.
Dr Osei who was speaking at the launch of the 2010 World Mental Health Day in Accra, said the bill would facilitate the integration of mental health services into the mainstream health care delivery system and ensure widespread access, convenience, reduced cost and safeguard the rights of mental patients in the country.
He explained that though the policy to integrate mental health into general health care had existed in the Ministry of Health since 1996 for all Regional hospitals to have psychiatric wings, the policy was never fully implemented, because it lacked the enabling legislation to back it.
He stated that with such integrated care, mental health services would be spread all over the country and people would not have to travel from the far corners of the country to Accra, Ankaful or Pantang for their mental health needs.
He said this would also reduce the pressures and congestions on existing mental health facilities and further reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
Dr Osei said the 2010 celebrations which is under the theme: “Mental Health and Chronic Physical illness: The need for continued and integrated care”, is to educate the public on the wrong impression that mental health and other physical illness had nothing in common and that they were separate entities and therefore mental health requires special care.
The Chief Psychiatrist explained that chronic or long-term physical illnesses such as diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular disorders, hypertension and tuberculosis among others all eventually “produce some mental disorders of some kind “that could lead to compromising on one’s care of his or her physical illness as well.
He said there was the need for every health facility especially the teaching, regional and district hospitals to have psychiatric wings to treat mental disorders.
Mr Rojo Mettle Nunoo, Deputy Minister of Health, said government recognises the consequence and impact of mental health on the socio-economic development of the nation and solicited for sustained and collaborative efforts from all stakeholders, especially Civil Society towards mental health issues at the community level.
He said the Bill was ready to be placed before Parliament and hoped it would be given the needed urgency required to ensure a swift passage into Law.
According to him, the Ministry has put in place various measures which include an ongoing training programme at the Kintampo Rural Health Training School, for medical assistants to increase the number of mental health personnel in the country.
The Ministry would soon start a new programme to train community, mental health officer as field officers for early detection of mental illness and work closely with community psychiatric nurses to follow up on patients in the community.