The acting Chief Executive of the National Mental Health Board, Dr. Akwasi Osei has advocated the establishment of mental health tribunals to deal with human rights abuses against mentally ill persons in the country.
He observed that abuses against mental patients, were on the rise particularly at prayer camps and traditional healing centres, hence the need to set up a legal component to tackle the menace.
Dr. Osei said this at the launch of the board’s first anniversary celebrations in Accra yesterday.
The celebration is on the theme, “Quality mental health care for all persons in Ghana” with a goal to draw attention to the overriding importance of ensuring proper and adequate mental health care for the country.
Activities for the celebration include a float through the principal streets of Accra today, and a public lecture to be delivered by Professor Patrick Gegeoghan, former Chief Executive of South Essex Mental Health Trust, UK, at the British Council in Accra.
Other activities include a gala football match among the three psychiatric hospitals in the country thus Accra, Ankaful and Pantang on Friday which will be followed by the launch of the Mental Health Fund on Saturday and a thanksgiving service on Sunday.
According to Dr. Osei, the celebration was geared towards mobilising support for the implementation of the Mental Health Act.
He said the board had begun forming regional mental subcommittees which were supposed to be the bedrock of mental health care in a decentralised manner.
He said that the subcommittees would also put in place visiting committees and mental tribunals to monitor human rights conditions in mental health care.
Dr. Osei said the board was also supporting a programme on ‘Operation Clear the Streets and Restore Dignity’ by which all mentally ill persons in the country would be taken off the streets in the next two years to be treated and re-integrated into society.
According to him, a study had shown that 4.75 million Ghanaians were having some form of mental disorder with 700,000 of them having a major disorder including schizophrenia and other psychotic conditions.
“These are severe mental illnesses that lead to distortion of reality and thinking while interfering with one’s quality of life and productivity,” he said.
Dr. Osei stressed the need for society to attach a great importance to the treatment of such patients as their ailment contributes to seven per cent loss of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the…. country.
He bemoaned the lack of infrastructure and resources to handle mental health care in the country.
He said only two per cent of each 100 mentally ill persons were getting some form of care at few mental hospitals and clinics adding “while we require not less than 100 psychiatrists, we have only 14 with only three psychiatric hospitals at the coast of the country”.
He, therefore, called on government to do more to enhance the availability and quality of treatment for mental patients.
Dr. Osei also urged corporate bodies and organisations to come to the aid of the mental health care.
By Charles Amankwa