BasicNeeds-Ghana organised a forum on mental health with key national level stakeholders drawn from political parties, religious organisations, and traditional authority institutions. The forum, which was held in Accra on February 13, 2020, was moderated by Shamwill Issah, a development and public health professional. The forum is an activity of the UK Aid funded project titled “Improving Mental Health Policy and Service in Ghana”, and was intended to influence policy and legislation for sustainable mental health financing in Ghana.
Also present were representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service, Mental Health Authority, the Ghana Prisons Service, the National House of Chiefs, faith-based organisations, civil society organisations and the media.
BasicNeeds-Ghana’s Programme Manager, Adam Dokurugu Yahaya, who welcomed participants, stressed the central role of mental health in Ghana’s health care delivery system. He bemoaned the low prioritisation given the sector by successive government administrations. He cited lack of integration and sustainable funding as the main problems confronting mental health care and services in the country. Adam Dokurugu thanked UK Aid for supporting mental health in Ghana.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority of Ghana, Prof. Akwasi Osei, gave the mental health situation in Ghana According to him Ghana’s mental health evolved from a century ago with a combination of orthodox care, traditional and faith-based healing practices. Human rights abuses, superstition, under-resourcing, dwelling too much on biological model leaving out other psychosocial components of mental health care remain some of the main challenges of mental health care in Ghana.
According to Prof. Osei, Ghana’s mental health system has for many years focused on institutional care and there was the need for a paradigm shift to focus on community care. He indicated that as many as 98 of every 100 people who require mental health services do not receive it because of the focus of institutional mental health care.
The President of the Greater Accra House of Chiefs, Nii Okwei Kinka Dowuona VI, who represented the National House of Chiefs, expressed his concern about the rate of substance abuse in communities across the country. He emphasized that abuse of drugs including Tramadol is one of the causes of addiction and mental illness in Ghana. He called on the law enforcement bodies to join forces to control and fight the menace of substance misuse.
Nii Okwei Kinka further lamented the current state of funding for mental health care and services and indicated that much is expected from the Government of Ghana on budgetary allocations for mental health issues in the country. He however pointed that the Government of Ghana alone cannot fund mental health care and services in the country and therefore called on development partners, private sector and other stakeholders to contribute in diverse ways to implement the mental health strategy for Ghana.
The keynote address of the forum was delivered by Dr Ernest Konadu Asiedu on behalf of the Minister for Health, Honourable Kwaku Agyemang-Manu. He emphasized the Government of Ghana recognizes mental health issues as key to the health and wellbeing of people in Ghana. The mental health issues are not just confined to health but also extend to the social sectors. And to champion mental health and well-being of Ghanaians, Dr Ernest Konadu Aseidu stated that the Health Sector Medium Term Development Plan (2018 – 2021) prioritized mental health for individuals, families, and communities.
Dr Samuel Kaba, Director of Institutional Care Division of the Ghana Health Service, acknowledged the contributions of BasicNeeds-Ghana in mental health care and services in Ghana. He stated that BasicNeeds-Ghana has a good track record of mobilizing stakeholders and partners to influence policies, public perceptions, and attitudes towards persons with mental illness.
He indicated that based on the principles of promoting quality health, prevention of diseases, curative, rehabilitative and palliative care, the Ghana Health Service has established mental health wings in regional and district hospitals. Through the Community Health Based Planning Service (CHPS), he added, the Ghana Health Service is extending services to households as part of the policy of people, family and community-centred care, championing mental health as part of core business. He concluded his statement by congratulating BasicNeeds- Ghana for its sustained and continuous community mental health work throughout the years.
There were discussions on various themes which generated varied views from the participants on funding for mental health care and services in Ghana, stigma and discrimination against persons with mental illness, human resource capacity for mental health care and services and community-based rehabilitation.
On the side lines of the forum, people with mental health conditions showcased bead products they had designed to the admiration of the participants. The participants admired the products and bought some for personal use or as souvenirs.