BasicNeeds-Ghana’s Work in the Upper East Region

Bolgatanga, the Upper East Regional capital, was recently made home to the third BasicNeeds-Ghana field office. This was in recognition of the scale of ongoing interventions in the region. Prior to openning a field office in Upper East Region, BasicNeeds-Ghana worked through partners – PRIDE-Ghana and the Zuure Organic Vegetable Farmers’ Association (ZOVFA).

These local partners were mainly involved in the mobilisation and formation of peer support groups of people with mental illness and epilepsy, facilitation of community consultations, and strengthening the capacities of these peer support groups. Presently, there are forty-four (44) SHGs in the region with membership strength of one thousand and sixty-nine (1,069) comprising six hundred and fifty-three (653) females and four hundred and sixteen (416) males.

BasicNeeds-Ghana has continued to work with these SHGs over the years in various forms. These are:

  • Routine Specialist Psychiatric Outreaches
  • Donating psychotropic and any-epileptic medicines
  • Rehabilitation/renovation of some Mental Health Units at Binaba and Pusiga Health Centres
  • Donation of motor bikes to all Municipal/District Mental Health Units to facilitate community mental health delivery in their various operational areas
  • Creating awareness on the rights of PWMIEs through organising various programmes such as radio programmes, route marches to commemorate WMHD celebrations, etc.

  • Small ruminants and livelihood grants to SHG members to engage in various income generating activities
  • Dry season gardening (5 communities in the Builsa North District, 3 in Talensi and 1 in Binduri)
  • Skills training (tailoring/dress making, hairdressing, carpentry, etc) for stabilised PWMIEs

  • Strengthening capacity of Physician Assistants, Midwives, Community Health Nurses and Psychiatric Nurses to improve mental health delivery in the region
  • Building the capacity of the non-formal mental health delivery sector (Traditional and Faith-Based Healers) on the rights of PWMIEs and promote linkages with the formal sector (CPUs)
  • Training of SHGs and their leadership on group dynamics, advocacy, public speaking and assertiveness

  • GHS is our main collaborator in the mental health delivery in the region and BNGh has been working closely with the institution to deliver community mental health in the region
  • Various Municipal/District Assemblies
  • DSW/CD
  • CHRAJ and NCCE
  • NHIS to include PWMIEs in their scheme
  • UE AMHD on various advocacy issues in the region

Like many other regions, Upper East Regional office of BasicNeeds-Ghana has chalked significant successes which include the following:

  • A major shift from local method of treatment to formal means of Mental Health Care. This is evidenced by increased rate of visitation to the Community Psychiatric Units in the Region.
  • Positive improvement in perceptions about Mental Illness and Epilepsy as curable conditions with resultant drastic reduction in stigma and discrimination. Hence most families are now bold enough to admit they have mental ill patients and accordingly seek healthcare and speak out.
  • Due to psychiatric outreaches and livelihood empowerment interventions, the rate of relapse has also seriously slowed down.
  • Many clients and carers are now economically empowered and therefore, independently afford their treatments in times of shortage of free medication.
  • Persons suffering from psychosocial conditions are now more assertive and able to engage with their local authorities on issues that affect their wellbeing in their communities
  • Efforts at enabling Mental Ill clients and carers to benefit from two and half percent of District Assembly Common Fund for the disabled and other social intervention programs such as LEAP and NHIS has began yielding results across the region.

  • Perennial shortages of medication are still a major hindrance to Mental Health Care in the region as BasicNeeds’ psychiatric outreaches are unable to meet the demand.
  • Some families with Mental Ill patients renege on their responsibilities pushing everything concerning their clients to BasicNeeds officers and health workers.
  • Generally, Mental Health reluctantly remains a low-priority for the Health Directorate and other stakeholders in the region.
  • Many persons suffering from mental illness or epilepsy and their care givers are not able to afford the cost of medication due to their poor economic background
  • There are still a combination of:
    • Stigma,
    • Negative perceptions,
    • Fear, helplessness,
    • Negative public attitudes and behaviour towards PWMIEs
    • Inadequate infrastructure and service policy to support the course of PWMIEs
  • Despite efforts of BNGh and the GHS to cater for the needs of PWMIEs, there are still a good number of vagrants who are roaming on the streets and who require mental health care

Even though barriers exist on the way of Mental Health workers and clients as well as their carers, Mental Health outlook in the region is understandably promising. And people are afraid to hide mental ill patients or abuse them in any way due to their knowledge of the provisions of Mental Health Act (864). BasicNeeds-Ghana has earned a niche as the first-point-of-call in Mental Health.

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