Friday, October 10, 2014

“Stop Ostracizing Or Locking Persons With Mental Illness” Alliance Urges

Nassam A. Abukari

The Northern Regional Alliance on Mental Health and Development has urged families, prayer camps and traditional healers across Ghana to “stop ostracizing or locking persons with mental illness (PWMI) and rather bring them out to access treatment.” 

A member of the Alliance, Nassam Alhassan Abukari, said there are instances where some PWMI or epilepsy are being “chained and confined to isolated places, beaten or bathed with hot water during treatment.” 

He emphasised that, the Alliance is not totally striping prayer camps or traditional healers off their business and profession, but rather wants to ensure that “they reduce the physical and psychological abuse they take mentally ill patients through.” 

Mr. Abukari made this clarion call in Tamale to mark this year’s World Mental Health Day which was organised by BasicNeeds-Ghana. It was celebrated under the theme: Living A Healthy Life With Schizophrenia in Ghana, A Concern For All and brought together stakeholders in the health sector as well as some civil society organizations. 

Tenth October is a day set aside by the World Health Organization (WHO) to celebrate successes in mental health as well as reflect on issues affecting the sector every year. The event in Tamale was also an opportunity to welcome the new psychiatrist at the Tamale Teaching Hospital, Dr. N.K.B. Soorin. Dr. Soori is currently the only psychiatrist resident in the region and for that matter Northern Ghana.

PWMI and their caregivers

According to the WHO, schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder, characterized by profound disruptions in thinking, affecting language, perception, and the sense of self. It often includes psychotic experiences, such as hearing voices or delusions. It can impair functioning through the loss of an acquired capability to earn a livelihood, or the disruption of studies. 

Schizophrenia typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. Most cases of schizophrenia can be treated, and people affected by it can lead a productive life and be integrated in society.

Mr. Abukari also called on government to regularly supply sufficient anti-psychotics and anti-epileptic medications to the region in order to avoid situations where persons with mental illness or epilepsy relapse due to lack or shortage of medications at the various hospitals. 

He further called on all manner of people in authority, to treat persons with mental illness and epilepsy at the home, work place and in the community with care, attention and respect.

“The Alliance again calls on Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to include plans and budgets of persons with mental illness or epilepsy in their Medium-Term Development Programmes as well as give such persons their two percent share of the District Assembly’s Common Fund.

“Last but not least, the Northern Regional Alliance on Mental Health and Development is further calling for public support towards the proposed introduction of “The Operation Clear The Street Project.” The ultimate objective of this particular project by government is to rid all streets of persons with mental illness by taking them to hospitals and health centres for proper treatment till such a time that they are declared healthy by psychiatrists”, Mr. Abukari stated.

Yaro Badimak Peter

The Executive Director of BasicNeeds-Ghana, Yaro Badimark Peter said his organisation has worked and continue to work and support persons with schizophrenia as well as other forms of mental illness. “A total of 26, 464 persons with mental disorders have been reached out to and 3,188 persons with schizophrenia supported.

“A total of 490 of them are engaged in productive activities, some of which earn them income. Occupying people with productive activities have proved to be a positive non-drug therapeutic intervention that enhances recovery”, Mr. Yaro noted.

Meanwhile, he also called on government to increase attention on providing resources such as psychotropic medicines for mental health. “Shortages in supply and availability of psychotropic medicines especially at the district and sub-district facilities continue to persist. Non-drug therapeutic interventions in public facilities are virtually absent, whilst many of the social interventions such as Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty; National Health Insurance Scheme; and 2% District Assembly Common Fund are yet to benefit significant numbers of people with mental disorders and their families.”

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