Young people make up a significant proportion of the population of Ghana. They live in a time of great change. Their world is marked by rapid changes in various facets of life. These changes, inevitable as they are, potentially represent a source of distress to their mental well-being. Traditional bedrocks that provided stability for many young people in times past – strong family and community bonds that gave them identity and enduring formation into adulthood – are now, unfortunately, eroding at a faster pace than ever before. The pressure to succeed socio-economically and the related challenges to get formal education and jobs, vulnerabilities emanating from child labour, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, inadequacies in parental care and exposure to drugs and hard substances, among others, constitute the apparent and real challenges young people grapple with. Pervasive and unregulated use of Internet technologies such as violent online games and interactive social media, also expose many young people to new forms of threats like cyber bullying, sleep deprivation, eating disorders and romance scam, among others.
Despite this, huge opportunities for the growth and development of the youth exist which can enable them tap into their energies and potentials to become productive members of their families, communities and country. It is for this reason that everything must be done to prevent mental illness, promote mental health and provide treatment and rehabilitation for young people, especially those in most need of mental health care services. It is for this reason that BasicNeeds-Ghana (BNGh) and Mental Health Society of Ghana (MEHSOG) join the rest of the world to celebrate this year’s World Mental Health Day.
In this regard, BasicNeeds-Ghana and its partners continue to implement projects and programmes tailored to specific population groups, such as young people and women of the reproductive age. With the support of UKaid, BasicNeeds-Ghana and its partners have implemented community youth and school-based mental health initiatives to increase awareness and promote peer-support as well as provision of medical treatment, including counselling services for young people. Over 7000 young people, from 95 schools in 19 districts have been reached by our projects. The Ghana Alliance for Mental Health and Development, made up of over 128 civil society organisations and individuals, continue to widely sensitise the public and advocate for improvement in mental health services and policies in Ghana. With support of STAR-Ghana and UNDP, BasicNeeds-Ghana and its implementation partners continue to bring to the fore the need for inclusive policies and programmes that address mental health needs of the poor and vulnerable, especially young people and women.
The health and wellbeing of young people should be of concern to all. They are the future of any society and everything should be done to safeguard them and their future. We, therefore, call on government, all civil society entities and the Ghanaian populace to support efforts to promote mental well-being of young people, their families and communities by adequately resourcing the mental health system in Ghana. We entreat the Ministry of Health and its related agencies, particularly the Ghana Health Service and the Mental Health Authority of Ghana, to develop specialist services that suitably address mental health issues of young people in the communities and across the health care system of the country. Psycho-social support and counselling services also need to be deepened, especially in the country’s educational institutions. Finally, efforts need to be mobilised to completely de-stigmatise mental health issues. This will encourage young people, and indeed anyone in need of mental health care to freely access it.
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