A study conducted by three institutions has revealed that seven per cent of the country’s productivity is lost to ordinary Ghanaians due to mental health.
The study by the University of Ghana’s Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), in collaboration with the Yale University and the Department of Psychiatry Department of the University of Ghana, also showed that only three per cent of mental health patients received services from orthodox psychiatric settings.
The low access is due to geographical barriers, economic challenges, stigma, lack of human resources and training opportunities, as well as inadequate infrastructure.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo made reference to the statistics when he opened the Mental Health Department building at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra yesterday.
To address the challenges, the President said the government was making significant strides by prioritising mental health and increasing funding by over 200 per cent over the last six years to support comprehensive care.
The Mental Health Department building is named after the first Ghanaian military pilot, Squadron Leader Melody Dankwa, who had a bipolar disorder but managed it so well that she combined the sickness with piloting and trained airforce pilots, including former President J. J. Rawlings.
It will not only serve the University of Ghana Medical School, but also the larger Korle Bu Teaching Hospital community.
It houses a conference room, student lecture halls, faculty research offices, waiting area conducive for teaching and learning, consulting rooms, therapy rooms, treatment room, a pharmacy and an observational room.
He said the Mental Health Act 846 passed in 2012 had led to a more coordinated and efficient approach to mental health care, empowering individuals with mental health conditions to live in their communities with the support of their families and friends.
The President added that the Act focused on human rights and that people with mental problems were treated with dignity and respect.
President Akufo-Addo indicated that on March 31, 2023, the government decriminalised suicide in Ghana, a major step towards mental health delivery, and that the move would help reduce stigma, improve access to care and enhance outcomes for individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts and behaviours in the country.
President Akufo-Addo stressed that government remained steadfast in improving the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), expanding healthcare infrastructure and enhancing general healthcare delivery.
He added that the NHIS was considering, as a matter of justice and equality, to include the more serious mental health conditions in the NHIS list so that some of the expenses of patients might be covered by the scheme.
Prof. Angela Ofori-Atta explained that the building would be the integration of physical and mental health service and a platform from which to spring forth services to patients even in their homes to normalise care and take away the stigma related to mental illness.
She explained that it would also be a space to inspire students and faculty to give of their best to their patients and deliver new therapies; “perhaps even a place to generate wellness programmes to build resilience and energies in communities.”
The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, urged Ghanaians to refrain from violating the rights of individuals and families affected by mental health issues, explaining that the Mental Health Act criminalises all forms of discrimination, harassment and stigmatisation against individuals with mental health conditions.