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Mental Illness Is Not A Curse   
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Mental illness, according to medicine is a chronic disorder diagnosed most often by a psychiatrist, of a behavioral or mental pattern that may cause suffering or a poor ability to function in life.

Such features may be persistent, relapsing and remitting, or occur as a single episode. Many disorders have been described, with signs and symptoms that vary widely between specific disorders.

The causes of mental disorders are often unclear. Theories may incorporate findings from a range of fields.

Mental disorders are usually defined by a combination of how a person behaves, feels, perceives or thinks.

This may be associated with particular regions or functions of the brain, often in a social context.

It is believed that cultural and religious beliefs, as well as social norms, should be taken into account when making a diagnosis.

Services are based in psychiatric hospitals or in the community, and assessments are carried out by psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and clinical social workers, using various methods but often relying on observation and questioning.

Treatments are also provided by various mental health professionals and psychotherapy and psychiatric medication are two major treatment options.

Other treatments include social interventions, peer support and self-help while in a minority of cases there might be involuntary detention or treatment. Prevention programmes have been shown to reduce depression.

According psychiatrists and historians, common mental disorders in Ghana include depression, dementia and schizophrenia.

Stigma and discrimination could also add to the suffering and disability associated with mental disorders, leading to various social movements attempting to increase understanding and challenge social exclusion.

Mental health problems could cover a broad range of disorders, but the common characteristic is that they all affect the affected person’s personality, thought processes or social interactions.

They could be difficult to clearly diagnose, unlike physical illnesses.

Sometimes clinical history, family history and outlook are similar among a group of people with mental disorders and in these situations, their condition could be defined as a specific disorder syndrome.

According to medical experts, the human brain is the source of mental illness.

Although the symptoms of a disorder may affect any part of the body, the electrical events that produce the symptoms occur in the brain.

Societal myth surrounding mental disorders is a huge challenge that impedes treatment of patients.

Because of societal marginalisation, discrimination and stigmatisation of epileptic patients, some family members fail to send patients for treatment or seek medical advice with the idea that the problem is linked with witchcraft.

Though medicine have proven beyond every reasonable doubt that strict adherence to the course of medication could facilitate treatment and curing process of people with mental disabilities, families hide them in homes to protect family dignity.

Sometimes the situation is very bad in deprived areas as communities continue to stigmatise patients, families and relatives of the mentally-deranged because they habour the superstitious belief that the ailment is linked to witchcraft and trans-generational curse. 

Lack of required human resources and other necessary logistics over the years, increased access to mental health treatment services still remains a challenge in the country.

But in the Brong-Ahafo Region, the opportunity has been created to augment government’s efforts and  thanks to MIHOSO International, a health centred non-governmental organisation (NGO) and its partners for the implementation of a three-year project on mental health in the Region.

The NGO in collaboration with BasicNeeds Ghana, another NGO sought funding from the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom and started the project’s implementation in all the 27 Municipal and District Assemblies in the Region in 2014.

According to Dr Gabriel Gbiel Benarkuu, the Chief Executive Officer of MIHOSO International, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) said the three- year project expected to end in 2017 aimed at fighting discrimination and improve access to quality healthcare for patients in the Region.

The project, he said after two and half years of implementation had achieved significant successes.

Outlining some of the achievements, Dr Benarkuu said almost all public health facilities in the eight Municipal and 19 District Assemblies in the Region had accepted the need to integrate mental healthcare into mainstream health care delivery.

Initially, the CEO observed that stigmatisation of mental illness patients is very high in the health facilities as some health workers abuse the rights of patients when they seek medical attention.

Aside these, Dr Benarkuu said the project had identified and trained managers of 69 prayer camps and traditional healers and created a link between them and the various Municipal and District Directorates of Health Services in the treatment and curing processes of patients.

He stated that 112 people suffering from mental illness and epilepsy have been put into groups in 17 Districts with many of them engage in employable skills training to enhance their socio-economic well-being.

Dr Benarkuu said the project had also trained 100 community volunteers who detect and refer early warning signs of mental and other neurological disorders to mental health coordinators in the various Districts.

He called for a Legislative Instrument (LI) to facilitate a realistic implementation of the Mental Health Law, saying because of the lack of an LI, the law could not operate effectively.

Mr Joseph Yere, the Regional Coordinator of Mental Health told the GNA epilepsy is recording high figures in the Region.

The cases were highly reported among patients from four -18 years, he said and commended MIHOSO international and its partners for the support towards addressing mental health situation in the Region.

He appealed to pregnant women to attend antenatal clinics regularly and ensure that they always deliver at health facilities.

Mr Yere said some mental disorders and epilepsy could be treated when patients strictly adhered to their prescriptions and advised parents and guardians to ensure that the patients regularly took their medication.

He said depression, especially among women is also assuming alarming proportions and  financial constraints and marital problems are some of the causes.

Mr Yere commended government for addressing the recurrent shortages of drugs for mental health patients, saying many are recuperating as a result of drugs availability.
Source: GNA

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