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Global Day for mental awareness

posted Oct 10, 2010, 8:59 AM by Ghana Medical Volunteers
Accra, Oct. 10, GNA - Sunday, October 10 marked the global day for mental health awareness that brings attention to mental illness and its effect on individual life, work, family and overall stability of communities and countries.

The celebration being championed in Ghana by BasicRights, an international non-governmental organisation is on the theme: "Mental health and chronic physical illnesses: the need for continued and integrated care."

A statement issued by Mr Badimak Peter Yaro of BasicRights Ghana at the weekend and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra said: "The day promotes more open discussion of mental disorders and investments in prevention and treatment services."

It said non-communicable/chronic/long-term diseases are now the leading cause of death worldwide.

"Today, there is an increased understanding of the relationship between chronic physical illnesses such as cardiovascular, diabetes, cancer and respiratory illnesses and mental illnesses. "These four chronic physical illnesses, according to the World Health Organisation, accounts for 60 per cent of the world's deaths. 80 per cent of the deaths are happening in the poorest populations of the world.

"If nothing is done experts estimate that the world could witness another 388 million people dying prematurely within the next 10 years. "Also a person with these illnesses has much higher rate of depression and anxiety than the general population," the statement said. It said studies have shown that persons with severe or chronic physical illness often have a co-existing mental health problem, while those with severe mental illnesses or substance abuse have physical health problems that remain undetected and untreated. "We (BasicNeeds) note that even though mental health services are increasingly being recognised in Ghana as critical, mental health still remain ignored, budgetary allocations to mental health are low, mental health practitioners in the country continue to render services in difficult environment as they do not get the resources and support they deserve."

The statement said issues about stigma, access to treatment are all human rights issues, adding that people with mental disorders in Ghana are exposed to a wide range of human right violations. "The stigma they face means they are often ostracised from society and fail to receive the care they require.

"In certain circumstances people suffering from mental illness are restrained with metal shackles, confined in caged beds, deprived of clothing, decent bedding, clean water or proper toilet facilities and are subject to abuse and neglect."

The statement said people with mental disorders face discrimination on daily basis including in the fields of education, employment and housing.

It advocated that government through the Ministry of Health should work closely with mental health service users and family groups and other stakeholders in unified efforts to raise awareness and work towards changing public attitudes towards mental illness. "Mechanisms to monitor human rights should be established to protect against inhuman and degrading treatment, poor living conditions and inappropriate and arbitrary involuntary admission and treatment. "There is also the need to empower mental health service users and families. One of such groups is the recently established Mental Health Society of Ghana.

"Government should put in place mental health policies, laws and services that promote the rights of people with mental disorders, empower them to make choices about their lives, provide them with legal protection and ensure their full integration and participation into the community." The statement called on the government to speed up the passage of the mental health bill.