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Mentally challenged in chain

Mental health care services lack adequate funding, political attention and social awareness leaving mentally disabled people with few choices for treatment. Today, on the World Mental Health Day, October 10, we call for more attention to the social stigma around mental disabilities and more political support to raise the level of care provided at traditionel treatment centres in Ghana.

Accra, October 10, 2017:

People suffering from mental disabilities are often subjected to discrimination, social exclusion and ill-treatment. More needs to be done to combat the social stigma, not least at work places, which is this year’s World Mental Health Day theme. 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 issue with mental disabilities in Ghana is highly prevalent. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 3% of Ghana’s 28.2 million people suffer severe mental disorders, and 10% suffer from mild to moderate mental disorders. These mild disorders include anxiety disorders and depression, two very curable cases. In Ghana, mental health conditions are 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 are laden with ill-treatment and degrading living conditions for the mentally ill. The situation in psychiatric hospitals are not significantly better, as there are only 16 psychiatrists and 1,558 psychiatric nurses across Ghana, making useful treatment and follow-through rare. Furthermore, a significantly low ratio of individuals with mental disabilities seek treatment.

According to the World Health Organization, merely 1.2% 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, policy makers 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.

HRAC, Bringing Rights to Life