|Sheik Yakubu Abdul-Kareem|
The Executive Director of Gub-Katimali Society (GKS) Sheik Yakubu Abdul-Kareem has implored journalists to expose spiritualists and herbalists who sexually abuse and impregnate female patients who are brought to their centres for psychiatric treatment.
According to him, it is criminal for spiritualists and herbalists to engage in such practices because they are at variance with provisions of the mental health law (Act 846, 2012) and for that matter the constitution of Ghana.
“It’s barbaric, inhumane and an infringement on the basic human rights of patients who are subjected to any form of abuse including sexual abuse”, Sheik Abdul-Kareem said this in Tamale when he closed a two-day training workshop organised by his organisation to enhance the knowledge and skills of over 40 journalists.
He said there have been several reports of abuse being perpetuated by some spiritualists and herbalists in Northern Ghana where the incidence of mental illness and epilepsy are high, and encouraged families of patients to be weary of where they go to seek treatment.
“There are times a female patient suffering from any form of mental illness is sent to a herbalist or spiritualist for treatment and after spending few weeks or months at the treatment centre she is later found to be pregnant. When family members probe further they get to find out that it’s the spiritualist.
“Because in this part of the country no one places value on persons with mental illness and epilepsy, the families of these patients often decide not to report the criminal conducts of such spiritualists and so they continue to perpetuate such acts thinking that is right”, he indicated.
The workshop was organised as part of the implementation of a 5-year (2013 – 2018) DFID mental health and development project in all 26 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in the Northern Region.
The project is aimed at supporting the government of Ghana to build a national mental health system that effectively and efficiently responds to the mental health needs of Ghanaians. This will reduce the wide mental health treatment gap currently existing in Ghana and enable men, women, girls and boys with neuropsychiatric conditions to live and work successfully in their communities.
|A Cross Section of Participants|
The project seeks to increase capacity of Ghana's Mental Health Authority to effectively and efficiently run community based mental health services; and support 100,000 women, men, girls and boys with mental health needs to access quality mental health services within the proximity of their communities.
Furthermore, the project will ensure an organised and active mental health service user and care-giver movements get involve in mental health service and policy advocacy in Ghana; and the reduction of social stigma and discrimination towards mental health and women, men and children living with mental illness and epilepsy.
A Public Education and Investigative Officer at the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice CHRAJ) in the Northern Region Inusah Iddrisu, also cautioned the general public to respect the civil liberties and human rights of persons with mental illness and epilepsy (PWMIE).
According to Mr. Iddrisu, any citizen of Ghana who suffers from any form of mental illness or epilepsy still have their basic human rights and freedoms intact for them to enjoy, and such rights must be respected by their families and other members of the public as stated by the country’s Constitution.
He stressed that, it is a crime to beat, torture, rape and deny PWMIE treatment or sack them from their places of work, and called on the security agencies particularly the police not to delay in seeking justice for such vulnerable people when issues concerning their health and welfare come to their notice.
Participants were taken through the Mental Health Act, terminologies to use when reporting on mental health and how to report effectively and efficiently on issues of mental health and radio/television programme production. Participants consist of journalists working in the print, radio, television and online.
Gub-Katimali Society (GKS) is a non-profit-making organization based in Tamale in the Northern Region and is committed to bringing change and improvement in the lives of the vulnerable and downtrodden. GKS also seeks to sensitise, empower and enable local communities to realize their own development through collective participation, partnership and pooling resources together for sustainable development.