Public relations officer of the Ghana Psychological Association, Dr Isaac Newman Arthur, has expressed the need for government to invest more in advocacy and education on mental health in the country.
According to him, causes of mental illnesses and its risk factors are multi-factorial. By this, he revealed that there are physical, social and even spiritual considerations when issues of mental health come up.
In light of this, Dr Arthur indicated that any chronic illness and disability may trigger such mental state, hence, the need for government to focus more on it.
“I think the public advocacy and education about mental health issues of the masses is so important. When that is done, you realize that the risk may go down because people are able to take good care of themselves. Again, issues with stigma and others may go down. So, we need some national drive on mental health education of the populace, that will significantly help…”Dr Isaac Newman Arthur
Ghana is said to have some 2.4 million persons possibly suffering from mental illnesses per the World Health Organization. Among other things, Dr Arthur emphasized the need for government to draw out robust policies particularly on the training of mental health professionals and also increasing access to affordable mental healthcare at the national level.
To this effect, he underscored that there must be budget allocation for mental health issues, by including patients on the national health scheme and even for private health insurance companies as well to enroll patients. This, he noted, is because some of these private health insurance schemes do not even include mental health as part of the things they take care of.
“What it means is that if someone has a mental health problem, they have to deal with it by themselves and that can create a lot of problems.”Dr Isaac Newman Arthur
Elaborating on what is accounting for 2 million Ghanaians suffering from mental illnesses, Dr Arthur again alluded to cases of genetic risk – where someone may have genetic risk factor for some mental illness, such as depression, schizophrenia and bipolar.
Moreover, he noted that some individuals also suffer from traumatic experiences and social related problems including relationship problems, financial issues, cultural and traditional problems.
“Now, social media has become a major thing in terms of the risk for developing a mental health problem. People learn all kinds of things, cyberbullying and things like that. Some research will tell you that majority of the people who are addicted to social media, they use social media to cope with depression… If you go to a person’s life, you may have multiple things happening to them, even when it comes to adverse childhood experiences.”Dr Isaac Newman Arthur
Socioeconomic implications on mental health
Moreover, Dr Arthur cited low socio-economic environment as the highest cause of mental illness in the country. He noted that low-income countries record higher numbers than the higher income countries because of the socioeconomic issues and the unavailability or lack of access to mental healthcare and education.
“When the country may not have what it takes to take care of its citizens, it leads to all kinds of things. So, socioeconomic issues may be one of the major factors.”Dr Isaac Newman Arthur
To address the challenges, the PRO for the Ghana Psychological Association emphasized the relevance of increase in training of mental healthcare professionals. Currently, he noted that there aren’t more than 1,000 persons who have been trained and accredited by the regulatory bodies who have to attend to about 33 million people.
“You may have people who may not have been accredited yet, they are providing some mental healthcare for people. But we need to increase all those things. Thankfully this year, the decriminalization of attempted suicide was one of the major things I think was done by the parliament of Ghana… If you compared to some years back, access to mental healthcare is way better.”Dr Isaac Newman Arthur
Moreover, Dr Arthur revealed that due to some governmental policies, persons can now walk to any hospital or clinic and are likely to have someone addressing their mental health concerns. In cases where there aren’t trained professional on site, he noted that such hospital can refer to other capable medical facilities.
“So, we’ve come a long way and a lot of organizations have really worked…”Dr Isaac Newman Arthur
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