Mental illness, according to health experts, is not contagious in any form, yet it is increasingly becoming a reason why persons who have ever suffered any kind of mental illness and epilepsy or taken any psychiatric medication are denied job offers.
In some jurisdictions including Ghana, when someone applies for a job, a driver's license, an insurance policy or admission into a higher institution of learning, she/he will often be required to answer a question relating to their mental health.
Very often when the person answer such questions candidly and admit having received psychiatric or psychological treatment in the past, the result often will be loss of important opportunities such as rejection for employment, denial of license, admission to college or other educational programmes and denial of insurance coverage.
Even where an employee is found out by his employer to have a mental health problem and he is not sacked, the employee sometimes face serious discrimination and stigmatisation when news about their condition is made public at the work place.
Thanks to Gub-Katimali Society (GKS) and BasicNeeds-Ghana, some selected master artisans in Northern and Upper West Regions of Ghana are currently undergoing sensitisation on various forms of mental health illness including epilepsy and how to manage them. This was to enable them effectively manage stabilised mentally ill and epileptic persons who will be undertaking apprenticeship with them in different vocations.
|A former beneficary of BNG programme|
Executive Director of GKS Sheik Yakubu Abdul-Kareem told Savannahnews, that GKS and its partners BasicNeeds-Ghana were planning to support stabilised persons with mental illness and epilepsy (PWMIE) to undergo any artisanal training of their choice and that which is available in their community or district.
The goal of the sensitisation training for the master artisans in Northern Ghana was therefore, to let them understand the various mental health conditions, their causes, mode of treatment and management. This, he said, would enable them to relate well with people who have a record of mental health problem and be able to train them well throughout their apprenticeship period.
Recently, about forty-five (45) master artisans from 7 municipalities and districts in the Northern Region were sensitised in Tamale. They came from Savelugu-Nanton Municipality, East Mamprusi, Karaga, Yendi Municipality, Zabzugu, Nanumba North and Sagnarigu Districts.
Sheik Abdul-Kareem stated that, after PWMIE receive the artisanal training of their choice, GKS and BasicNeeds-Ghana will also provide them with the necessary tools to start work on their own. PWMIE who lost their jobs and had been sitting at home, he indicated, were expected to benefit from the scheme which was part of the implementation of ‘Empowering People with Mental Illness in Ghana’ project which began in 2014 and expected to end in 2016, he explained.
|Dassah Kayelle Timothy|
The main objective of the project, according to Dassah Kayelle Timothy of BasicNeeds-Ghana, was to improve the mental health of men, women, boys and girls with mental illness and or epilepsy in the Northern and Upper West Regions of Ghana.
He said the project would directly empower 3,750 men and women with mental illness and or epilepsy and their 2,700 carers in poor rural areas to collectively express their needs and self-advocate through self-help groups (SHGs) to have those needs met.
These needs, Mr. Dassah said, included access to community based mental health services, government grants, skills training, employment, and inclusive policies that guarantee non-discriminatory school environments and participation in civic activities.
So far, 125 SHGs of PWMIE and their carers had been empowered and actively expressed their needs and claimed their rights to inclusion and development. “Training has been provided for community (mental) health workers, volunteers and specialist psychiatrist with follow-up outreach services whereas supplementary medicines have been supplied to complement government supplies”, Mr. Dassah told Savannahnews.
The provision of training to 120 representatives of SHGs and CBOs on rights-based advocacy, public speaking and in election campaigning and orientating them on existing or available social protection schemes available for their benefit was however ongoing, he noted, adding that “GKS and BasicNeeds plan to facilitate interface meetings of District Associations of SHGs and CBOs with core staff of the District Planning and Coordinating Units intended to ensure equal participation of women, men and youth in decision-making processes”.
Moreover, he mentioned that the skill priorities and interests of at least 1000 stabilised poor people with mental illness and epilepsy and 700 carers had been confirmed to take up new skills or re-establish whereas 120 master artisans and trades people in both regions had been trained to work with or train stabilised poor women, men and youth with mental illness and epilepsy in their various skill areas.
Meanwhile, both Gub-Katimali Society and BasicNeeds-Ghana are mental health non-governmental organisations based in Tamale, the Northern Regional capital. They have over the years work to bring hope and restitution to the lives of thousands of mentally ill and epileptic persons and their families.