Ghana asked to treat mental illness just as malaria
Mr Courage Ahorlu-Dzage, the Volta Regional Coordinator of Mental Health, Ghana Health Service, said this at an engagement with the media in Ho, on the Mental Health Act, 2012 (Act 846).
He quoted a 2011 report of the World Health Organisation (WHO) as saying: “10.1 per cent of Ghanaians are suffering from moderate to mild forms of mental disorders, 650,000 of which are severe mental illnesses with a treatment gap of 98%.”
A similar finding by the Yale University and the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana on the prevalence of psychological distress (moderate-severe) among Ghanaians, estimate that “19 per cent of the population is distressed.”
It concludes that psychological distress leads to a loss of seven per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Ghana compared to four per cent loss of GDP for malaria.
Mr Ahorlu-Dzage, therefore, urged the media to be guided by an admonishment from Lady Rosalynn Carter, a former First Lady of the United States of America (USA) who said: “Informed journalists can have a significant impact on public understanding of mental health issues as they shape debate and trends with the words and pictures they convey.”
Explaining the Mental Health Act and its import, Mr Ahorlu-Dzage said mental patients had rights to privacy, humane and dignified treatment, consent, the same standard of care as persons with physical health problems and security of employment.
“A person with mental disorder is entitled to the same fundamental rights as a fellow citizen”, the Act says.
He, therefore, advised journalists to employ journalistic ethical and professional standards when reporting any journalistic work concerning mentally ill persons.
Mr Ahorlu-Dzage said words like “madman, lunatic and imbecile” were derogatory and un-dignifying to such persons and must be avoided.
He implored the media to embark on sustained public education and information on the Mental Health Act and bring mental health issues to the fore of national discourse.
Meanwhile, a documentary aired at the engagement indicates that mental disorders often result from strained love relations; and debts arising from one’s inability to pay bills and other financial obligations.