Saturday, August 9, 2014

Over Four Thousand Mentally iIl, Epileptic Likely to Relapse

Sheik Yakubu Abdul-Kareem

Over four thousand mentally ill and epileptic patients in the Northern Region could relapse if steps are not taken immediately to ensure that their medications are supplied uninterrupted to the various hospitals and health facilities where they currently receive treatment.

The Executive Director of mental health non-governmental organisation Gub-Katimali Society (GKS) Sheik Yakubu Abdul-Kareem says, he fears the irregular supply and/or lack of medications for such persons in the region could become worse if government does not move quickly to intervene.

He observes that, persons with epilepsy and other forms of mental illness are obliged to take their medications continuously in order to recover, noting that, a skip in treatment for about a day or more can make patients who are currently on treatment relapse seriously.

“…automatically, if you are sick and you don’t actually have the regular treatment by all means you’ll relapse. We want to appeal to government to make these medicines available at the regional, district and community levels so that people suffering from such illnesses can access treatment,” Sheik Yakubu told Savannahnews on the sidelines of the Northern Regional Alliance on Mental Health and Development meeting in Tamale.

Checks by this blogger however confirmed that, since the beginning of 2014, the Northern Regional Psychiatric Unit of the Ghana Health Service has not received any consignment of psychoactive and antiepileptic medicines for epileptic and mentally ill patients. 

mentally ill at a treatment centre elsewhere in Ghana
Regional Psychiatric Nurse John Abdulai Ibrahim, who spoke to this reporter, also expressed concern that the condition of patients already on treatment could deteriorate once there are no medicines for them to continue to take. “Although one can buy such medicines in the pharmacy, they’re very expensive and hence, government’s decision to supply them free of charge to patients nationwide”, he noted.

However, Mr. Ibrahim attributed the seemingly dire situation to the way and manner medications meant for persons with epilepsy and other forms of mental illness are treated with disdain and derision by policymakers. 

He said anytime the medications are imported into the country, they go through a long bureaucratic process at the habour before eventually being released for the various District Hospitals to pick them up themselves in Accra. He said failure to go and pick up the medications themselves meant that mentally ill patients will be left to their own fate.

 “Lack of transportation and money to fuel vehicles to go and bring the medications is also a major challenge. Besides, the medications are always insufficient and so when you hear they’re in and you delay in going to pick yours, you may not get it at all until the next consignment is imported. It’s first come, first serve”, he disclosed. 

Mentally being chained at a prayer camp somewhere in GH
At the end of 2013, about 4,641 mentally ill and epileptic cases were recorded as against 4, 082 cases recorded in previous years including 2012. The figures, though reducing at a minimal rate, constitute about 60 percent of persons with only epilepsy according to Mr. Ibrahim.

He said medications are supposed to be supplied by the Ministry of Health four times in a year (quarterly) to the Northern Region. But, the region in the whole of 2013 received only one out of the four consignments promised which obviously was inadequate for over twenty district hospitals.

Meanwhile, the formation of the Northern Regional Alliance on Mental Health and Development was mooted following the inception of the concept of mental health and development project in the Northern Region by BasicNeeds Ghana and GKS.

The objective of the concept was among other things, to partner with institutions, individuals and other civil society organisations, which share similar vision as promoting the rights of persons with mental illness and epilepsy, and advocate for support for them on any platform they find themselves. 

Sheik Yakubu told this paper, that the major challenge currently facing the Alliance is the inactiveness of many members with regards to attending meetings, and urged institutions, organisations and individuals who are members of the Alliance to be up and doing.

Members of the Alliance include the Department of Social Welfare, Department of Gender, Children and Social Protection, National Commission on Civic Education, Mental Health Society of Ghana, Psychiatric Unit of Ghana Health Service, Amasachina Self-Help Association and other institutions. 

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