Mental health care must be on political agenda – Human Rights NGO

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Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC), has called for more attention to the social stigma around mental disabilities and more political support to raise the level of care provided at traditional treatment centres in Ghana.

A statement issued by HRAC, a not-for-profit research and advocacy organization on Tuesday, to commemorate the World Mental Health Day, said mental health care services lacked adequate funding, political attention and social awareness, leaving mentally disabled people with few choices for treatment.

The statement said people suffering from mental disabilities were often subjected to discrimination, social exclusion and ill-treatment.

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“HRAC’s focus is on the human rights and healthcare for mental health patients at traditional or faith-based centres, where the treatment is not certified and often unregulated.

“With support from STAR-Ghana, HRAC in partnership with MindFreedom Ghana recently initiated the “Promoting quality access to mental health care and rights of persons with mental disabilities in traditional mental health centres” project.

“The aim of the project is to improve mental health care services and treatment in traditional mental health settings in Ghana by creating awareness among civil society as well as service provider on mental health issues”, the statement said.  

It said the issue with mental disabilities in Ghana was highly prevalent. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 3 per cent of Ghana’s 28.2 million people suffer severe mental disorders, and 10 per cent suffer from mild to moderate mental disorders.

The statement said these mild disorders included anxiety disorders and depression, two very curable cases.

It said in Ghana, mental health conditions were perceived to have a spiritual basis, thus, sending many individuals to prayer camps and other faith-based healing options to get treated, yet, studies show that the prayer camps were laden with ill-treatment and degrading living conditions for the mentally ill.

The statement said the situation in psychiatric hospitals were not significantly better, as there were only 16 psychiatrists and 1,558 psychiatric nurses across Ghana, making useful treatment and follow-through rare.

It said a significantly low ratio of individuals with mental disabilities seek treatment. According to the WHO, merely 1.2 per cent of these individuals seek and receive medical treatment.

“On World Mental Health Day, HRAC call for more attention on a national level: persons with mental disabilities are entitled to a proper treatment and realisation of their human rights as enshrined in Chapter 5 of the 1992 Constituion of the Republic of Ghana. Too many individuals suffer abuse in faith healing camps and do not receive proper treatment.

“It is HRAC’s hope that as we join the world to celebrate

World Mental Health Day, policymakers and duty bearers will ensure the well-being of Ghanaians by removing “all customary” and workplace practices which dehumanise or are injurious to their physical and mental health”, the statement said.

HRAC is a not-for-profit, research and advocacy organization set up to advance and protect human rights in Ghana. The mandate of the HRAC is to provide free legal assistance to needy individuals, communities and institutions. HRAC mission is to ensure the realisation and protection of the rights of all persons living in Ghana in accordance with Ghanaian law and international standards.

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