|Mr. John Abdulai Ibrahim|
An estimated one thousand (1000) new cases of mental illness have been recorded in the Northern Region of Ghana since January up till date, Regional Psychiatric Coordinator John Abdulai Ibrahim has revealed.
The development, he observed, could further compound the mounting problems of the Psychiatric Unit in the region, citing inadequate number of psychiatric nurses, community psychiatric nurses, physiatrists, lack of motorbikes, fuel and insufficient medications for the old and newly identified patients.
Mr. Ibrahim revealed this to Savannahnews in an interview after he made a statement to commemorate World Mental Health Day organised by Gub-Katimali Society (GKS) and BasicNeeds-Ghana at the Sagnarigu District in the Northern Region recently.
World Mental Health Day is commemorated on October 10 every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.
The 2015 World Mental Health Day was marked on the theme: “Dignity In Mental Health”. The commemoration of the Day brought together various stakeholders including health personnel, social and development workers, National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mental Health Alliance, Traditional Authorities, Persons With Mental Illness and Epilepsy (PWMIE) and their caregivers.
Some of the common medications often prescribed for PWMIE are phenobarbitine, fluphenazine decanoate, olanzipine, haloperidol, cabarmazipine and among others. But sadly, Mr. Ibrahim said the Psychiatric Unit has run out of stock on some of the medications. “This could cause a lot of our clients who have recovered or stabilised to relapse”, he stated.
There are currently about 700 psychiatric nurses and 210 community psychiatric nurses at post across the country when in actual fact Ghana needs 5000 and 3000 personnel respectively for each of the two categories of psychiatric nurses. Additionally, Ghana currently has only 14 psychiatrists instead of 150. Of the 14 psychiatrists, only one is serving the entire Northern Ghana at the Tamale Teaching Hospital.
At the end of 2013, about 4,641 mental 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.
He said medications are supposed to be supplied by the Ministry of Health four times in a year 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.
Executive Director of GKS Sheik Yakubu Abdul-Kareem in a statement commended all stakeholders for their various roles in ensuring the passage of the Mental Health Law (Act 846), and the establishment of the Mental Health Authority and its Governing Board. “The formation of the Regional Mental Health Sub-Committee is also another concrete move to effectively address the needs of PWMIE”, he stressed.
He however noted that, the mental health sector was still underfunded and under-prioritised. “The supply of essential medicines needed by people with mental illness to stabilize their condition is still inadequate.
“……..Research into issues affecting mental health in Ghana is still low. Non-drug mental health services are still very limited. PWMIE still suffer discrimination, stigma and other human rights abuses”, he revealed.
Public Education and Investigation Officer at CHRAJ Iddrisu Inusah also urged employers and health officials to be mindful of the way and manner they treat PWMIE. “Such persons still have right to employment and healthcare”, he emphasised.
He further charged District Assemblies to stop maltreating PWMIE. “These vulnerable groups are by law entitled to 2% share of the district assembly common fund given to all MMDAs every quarterly. Refusing them their share is an act of discrimination and neglect”, he charged.