Ghana on Monday joined other nations around the world to commemorate the World Mental Health Day.
The day which falls on October 10 each year, was set aside by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to create awareness on Mental Health and advocate for policy initiatives and investment in the mental health service.
This year’s theme “The Great Push: Investing in Mental”, suggests the need for a further push for the passage of the Mental Health Bill into Law, to help streamline mental health care delivery and to help bridge the huge treatment gap that currently exists in community and hospital care.
Dr Daniel Kertesz, WHO Country Representative, said available information suggests that about 450 million people around the world suffered from mental or behavioural disorder.
He said studies conducted in Africa so far showed that at least one in six people who visited primary health care facilities suffered from some form of mental disorder.
Dr Kertesz said the mood and substance abuse disorders were becoming an increasing concern in the Region and cited frequent disasters, poverty, conflicts and other for forms of social unrest as the common causes of mental disorders.
He said only 50 per cent of countries in the Region had national mental health policies, and there were still inadequate investment in mental health services because human and financial resources currently provided to tackle the huge burden of mental illness were insufficient and access to mental health services was still limited.
Dr Kertesz said due to stigma and discrimination, mental disorders were often overlooked, adding that the number of countries with national mental health policies and plans had increased since the adoption of the regional strategy for mental health over a decade ago.
Dr Kertesz said although the regional strategy for mental health advocated for the shifting of some resources from tertiary care to the primary care level, most of the health facilities and services in the Region remained concentrated in the urban areas, making it difficult for persons with such disorders to have access to care in their communities.
“This hampers access to facilities and services and contributes to stigma and discrimination,” he added.
He said the need for improvement in mental health did not require sophisticated and expensive technologies, but rather increasing the capacity of the primary health care system for delivery of an integrated package of care as well as policies to initiate programmes based on enhancing treatment and promoting holistic care.
He said communities need to be supported to increase their awareness and help reduce the stigma associated with these disorders.
Dr Kertesz stressed that apart from the improvement and expansion of mental health facilities there were the need to initiate and sustain rehabilitation programmes for the mentally disabled, to facilitate their reintegration into the community.
Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh, Minister of Health, said government had made mental health one of its priorities and would give Parliament all the necessary support to ensure the final passage of the Mental Health Bill.
He explained that the Bill had already gone through the second reading in Parliament and there was every indication that it would be passed by the end of the year.
Mr Yieleh Chireh gave the assurance that the passage of the bill would pave way for other issues such as the decentralisation of mental health services and the shift in paradigm to community care.
He said with the imminent passage of the bill, there was the need to start working on the legislative instrument, adding that a new policy based on the new Act would need to be drawn and a strategic plan to execute the policy put in place.
Dr Akwesi Osei, Chief Psychiatrist of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, in an address read on his behalf said there was an on-going training programme at the Kintampo College of Health to train Community Mental Health Officers to serve as field workers.
He said medical assistants in Psychiatry were also being trained to man the Psychiatric wings that would be established in the general hospitals.
Dr Osei expressed appreciation to all collaborators and called for more financial support from government, philanthropists as well as corporate organisations, to help establish rehabilitation centres for the various psychiatric institutions.