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There is no doubt that herbal and spiritual methods of treating persons with mental illness and epilepsy, by herbalists and spiritualists, play a very vital role in the treatment and cure of such people.
But sadly, a lot of the time, reports of some herbalists and spiritualists taking undue advantage of the vulnerability of such persons to physically, psychological and sexually abuse them, leaves much to be desired.
In recent times, there have been reports of some mentally ill and epileptic patients being chained and confined to isolated places, beaten or bathed with hot water during treatment while females are slept with by some caregivers and herbalists at their treatment centres.
This is in direct contravention of the rights of such people who are mostly powerless and vulnerable, and unable to protect themselves due to the state of their mental condition.
In view of this, Gub-Katimali Society (GSK), a non-governmental organisation in collaboration with its partner, BasicNeeds-Ghana, organised a sensitisation forum in Tamale for Herbalists and Spiritualists as part of the implementation of a five-year DFID sponsored project.
According to the Executive Director and Programmes Manager of GSK, Sheik Abdul-Kareem Yakubu, the objective of the forum was to create awareness among participants about the existence of a mental health law and other regulations that protect the rights of mentally ill persons in and outside of the hospital including herbal and spiritual healing centres.
He said, it was also to encourage participants to embrace orthodox ways of treating mentally ill persons and integrating them into the traditional and spiritual ways of treating patients.
The five-year DFID project aims at supporting the government of Ghana to build a national mental health system that effectively and efficiently respond to the mental health needs of the population.
The project, among other things, will result in increased access to quality mental healthcare services through integration into primary healthcare. It will also reduce the high mental health treatment gap currently existing in Ghana, and will enable adults and children with neuropsychiatric conditions to live and work successfully in their communities.
|herbalist sells herbs in market|
Northern Ghana does not have a single psychiatric hospital, thus most patients in the area have to travel to any of the three state psychiatric hospitals– Accra, Pantang and Ankaful, located in the country’s extreme South for comprehensive treatment.
Under the new mental health law, there will be an improvement towards the care of poor, vulnerable people with mental illness or epilepsy, protection of their human rights and promotion of their participation in restoration and recovery.
The law in the next 5 to 10 years will ensure integrated services in general hospitals across the country, all district hospitals to have 2 to 5 beds in general wards, all regional hospitals to have psychiatric wards with 10 to 20 beds and community volunteers in mental health to be a common place.
The Northern Regional Coordinator of Psychiatric Nursing, John Ibrahim Abdulai, told Savannahnews, that more people in the region still need treatment but says lack of medicines is creating a desperate situation which could also derail achievements chalked in recent years.
By the end of 2013, he said about 4,641 mentally ill and epileptic cases were recorded as against 4, 082 cases recorded in 2012. The figures though reducing at a minimal rate constitutes about 60 percent of people with epilepsy according to Mr. Ibrahim.
Meanwhile, Alhaji Sufyan Hussein, Northern Regional Treasurer of the Association of Herbalists and Spiritualists, appealed to government and non-governmental organisations to support members of the association to effectively do their work well.