People suffering mental illnesses are vulnerable people who are sometimes neglected by even families or maltreated by the some members of the public.
Sadly, mental illnesses do not afflict only adults; sometimes even some very young children are victims as in the case of say autism.
We should note that mental illness does not mean only madness.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there are many different mental disorders with different presentations but they are generally characterized by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.
The WHO then adds that mental disorders include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, and developmental disorders including autism.
The unfortunate thing is that most Ghanaians lump all these conditions as madness and deal with people having mental challenges as mad people.
This means a good number of Ghanaians do not have the required level of understanding of mental disorders and issues of mental healthcare.
Under the circumstances, the rights of people suffering from mental health challenges are abused in the country as elsewhere the appreciation of mental health is low.
In fact, the WHO reports thathealth systems have not yet adequately responded to the burden of mental disorders across the globe.
The global health organisationexplains that as a consequence, the gap between the need for treatment and its provision is wide all over the world such that in low- and middle-income countries, between 76 percent and 85 percent of people with mental disorders receive no treatment for their disorder or receive poor quality of care.
This is why it is good newsthatthe Mental Health Authority (MHA) says it is going to institute a review tribunal to uphold the rights of persons suffering mental health disorders in the country.
The establishment of the tribunal, in line with the Mental Health Act 2012 (Act 846), is expected to improve general mental healthcare in the country and reduce the incidence of abuse, discrimination and inequalities against the mentally-challenged people in the society.
The Authority says the Act mandates it to institute visiting committees all over the country to visit mental health facilities to assess the kind of care given to mentally-challenged persons but in cases where they find persons being subjected to abuse, there are no avenues for redress.
This review tribunal is sort of a mini-court that will deal with cases bordering on mental health.
Therefore, the tribunal would be expected to address such issues in the hope that mentally-ill people would not be abused and that they would receive the best of care.
The Ghanaian Times wishes to suggest that while we wait for the tribunal, there must be intensive public education to make the public appreciate mental health and related issues like how to treat people with mental health challenges and such education must be sustained even when the tribunal becomes operational.