Civil Society Organizations promoting the liberties of mentally ill people have expressed misgivings about the lukewarm approach towards the full implementation of the Mental Health Law.
According to them, the passage of the Mental Health Law five years ago, has not really achieved its purpose, hence the need for government to make it fully effective.
Knowledge and Communications Officer of Basic Needs Ghana, Frederick Nantogmah, reiterated their standpoint at a day’s capacity building workshop for 50 traditional and spiritual healers in Tamale under the auspices of Gub-Katimali Society.
According to him, the plight of the nation’s Mentally ill people has worsened due to successive government’s failure to augment the support of civil society organizations in that regard.
Frederick Nantogmah stated that, “Ghana’s mental health sector could be in serious jeopardy in a few years’ time, owing to delays in the full implementation of measures spelt out by the country’s mental health law.”
“Five years after the passage of the country’s mental health law, many key aspects of the legislation have still not been achieved. Apart from the establishment of the Mental Health Authority and the Mental Health Fund, which is yet to receive a single payment since its creation, the rest of the other equally important aspects of the law have still not been implemented.”
He also mentioned the absence of the Mental Health Board, Visiting Committee, Legislative Instrument and Mental Health Tribunals as well as lack of specialist care in all ten regions and medications, for all public mental health facilities in the country, as some of the many challenges.
Mr. Nantogmah nonetheless reassured the nation’s mentally ill people that Basic Needs Ghana and its development partners including DFID, KOICA, and Direct Relief, will continue to alleviate their plight awaiting the full implementation of Act 846 of 2012.
“Our development partners such as DFID, KOICA, Direct Relief among others, have been giving government and its mental health facilities some form of assistance.”
“Through funding agencies like DFID, a lot has really been done. So right now, the Mental Health Authority has regional coordinators in all the places in all the regions, and these guys are helping out with managing mental health services across board.”
“We have also had the collaborations of other organisations like Direct Relief from the US, who have given us a lot of medicines to be able to distribute to five of the poorest regions in Ghana. These have been the mainstay of psychotropic medicines that have been used in a lot of these places to the extent that now people with mental illness do not have to pay for medications a lot of the time” Frederick Nantogmah added.
He said through the intervention of the Korea International Cooperation Agency and Johnson and Johnson, BasicNeeds has over the years engaged some selected mentally ill people in agribusiness and other economic activities to improve their livelihood.
The workshop was organised as part of the implementation of a 5-year (2013 -2018) DFID mental health and development project undertaken in all 26 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in the Northern Region.
The project aims at supporting the government of Ghana to build a national mental health system that effectively and efficiently responds to the mental health needs of Ghanaians. This will reduce the wide mental health treatment gap currently existing in Ghana, and enable adults and children of both sexes with neuropsychiatric conditions to live and work successfully in their communities.
It also seeks to increase capacity of Ghana’s Mental Health Authority to effectively and efficiently run community based mental health services; and support 100,000 adults and children of both sexes with mental health needs to access quality mental health services within the proximity of their communities.
The Executive Director of Gub-Katimali Society, Sheikh Alhaji Yakubu Abdul-Kareem, commended the participants for being active Ambassadors of change in their respective localities.
He reaffirmed his organization’s commitment to defend and protect the civil liberties of mentally ill people particularly those living in under-served communities in the Northern Region.
A Deputy Chief Investigator at the Regional Office of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Seidu Alhassan, urged the participants to play a crucial role in complementing the efforts of the public health delivery system in the country.
He said the role of traditional healers and chiefs in the development of mentally ill people could not be underestimated.
Mr. Alhassan further encouraged them to smoke out quack traditional healers and report them to the appropriate institutions of state to sanction them.
“Expose practitioners who are perpetrating bad behaviours and open up for better practices, improved facilities and services, and be humble enough to refer severe cases to psychiatric hospitals.”
By: Abdul Karim Nantogmah/citifmonline.com/Ghana