Include mental health in education curriculum – Panellists

Panellists at a forum on mental health have advocated the inclusion of mental health literacy in the new education curriculum currently being developed by the government.

Professor JospehBediako Asare, a former Chief Psychiatrist at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Augustina Naami, Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Work, University of Ghana, Patrick Kwabena Stephenson, Head of Policy Research and Finance, IMANI Africa and Dr Akwasi Osei, Chief Executive Officer of Mental Health Authority were the discussants.

Organised in Accra yesterday by BasicNeeds Ghana in collaboration with the Alliance for Mental Health and Development, Speak Your Mind campaign team and champions of the Time to Change with support from the United Kingdom (UK) ’s Department for International Development (DfID) as part of this year’s World Mental Day celebration.

Under the theme “Working together to prevent suicide- A call to action”, the event was to create awareness about suicide and how it could be curtailed in the Ghanaian society.

Professor Asare explained that growing cases of suicide among young people required that they were properly informed and educated to be able to identify causes of depression and other mental health which could result in suicide.

This, he said, would empower young people to work on themselves when faced with mental health and offer needed support to friends and colleagues who would be suffering from some form of mental stress.

He further called on institutions to develop and strengthen their counselling department which would be readily available to provide needed help to persons facing mental health challenges.

In the long term, Prof. Asare stressed the need for decentralisation of mental health care delivery to ensure that all healthcare facilities across the country were equipped to provide mental healthcare to all Ghanaians.

Describing the country’s suicide situation as alarming, Prof. Asare said frustration, poverty, psychological problems have spurred the menace and called for efforts to address societal expectations which mostly form the basis of suicide.

Echoing similar thoughts, Dr Naami said some societal culture and norms have given rise to stigma which had impacted negatively on the participation of people especially persons with disability in the society.

“We must kill stigma or else we cannot fully pursue social inclusion. We must rather support persons with disability so they can participate and help build their societies,” she stated.

To support the inclusion of persons with disability, she called for engagement with such persons on plans aimed at improving their lives.

“They understand their challenges better than any of us so we must include them in the planning of strategies to help them. It is better to develop their capacity to enable them take part in the decision making process if they are challenged capacity-wise,” she added.

Mr Stephenson called on the government to mainstream discussions about mental health into the country’s broader goals and partner the private sector to make funding available for mental healthcare delivery.

Dr Osei called for an establishment of a mental health levy as was provided in the Mental Health Law to serve as a funding pool for mental health.

BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS

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