Dr Akwasi Osei, Acting Chief Executive Officer of Mental Health Authority (MHA), has asked for the urgent implementation of the Mental Health Law to improve mental health care delivery.
The country, he said, also needed to mobilize political and social will in order to modernize mental health care delivery.
Dr. Osei made these observations on Friday at the “Fourth Inter-Medical School Public Speaking Competition”, organised at the School of Medical Sciences of the University Of Cape Coast to promote sound psychiatric practices.
The competition, which involved four public medical schools, was on the topic “Towards mobilizing Political and Social will to Modernise Mental Health Care Delivery in Ghana: The Way Forward.”
The Acting CEO noted that though the Mental Health Law (Act 846) was passed in 2012, its implementation was yet to start due to lack of political and social will towards mental health care in Ghana.
He complained that psychiatry had been termed a marginalised discipline, yet it was a complex medical area, which required both government and public attention to help push mental health care forward.
“Political will without social will is like a vehicle without fuel, no matter how hard you push, it wouldn’t start,” he stressed.
Enumerating the challenges confronting the mental health sector, including lack of adequate personnel, logistics and funding; stigmatisation, discrimination, stereotyping and abuse of mental health patients.
Dr. Akwasi Osei urged medical students to venture into the field of Psychiatry to lead the crusade towards revamping mental health care delivery.
He observed that the location of all the three Psychiatric Hospitals in the southern part of the country was a disincentive to the middle and the northern belts, leaving those parts with a huge deficit in mental health care.
He stated that there were 18 Psychiatrists in Ghana, of which only 11 were practicing, with the seven on retirement. There are also 12 Clinical Psychologists, 700 Psychiatric nurses and no occupational therapist.
He said there was only one psychiatric doctor averagely to about two million people, a situation he described as pathetic.
Dr. Akwasi Osei, however, expressed gratitude to the government for instituting the Mental Health Board, and the hope that the Legislative Instrument (LI) on mental health care delivery, which is currently with the Attorney General’s Department, would be out soon to help create the Mental Health Fund to kick start the full implementation of the Mental Health Law.
Professor Ernest Buah, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University Of Cape Coast, who chaired the function, said the state of Psychiatry in Ghana was bad and felt sorry whenever he saw the conditions at the Psychiatric Hospitals in Accra and Cape Coast.
On the contest, he advised the students to not only consider the occasion as a competition, but a sensitisation process, which must prick their consciences into mobilising social will in promoting mental health care delivery.
Meanwhile, the University Of Cape Coast shrugged off stiff opposition from their competitors to win the competition with 79.75 percent, while the University for Development Studies placed second with 78.13 percent followed by the Kwame Nkrumah University for Science and Technology with 77.7 percent and the University of Ghana with 76.50 per cent on the fourth position.
Scores of people were awarded on clarity of presentation, team co-ordination, engagement and strong coherence with the audience, and ability to deal with audience questions.
The winners were presented with a plaque, and as part of their winning prize, while the two representatives were awarded a six-week all-expenses paid trip to St. Patrick’s University Hospital, a Psychiatric facility in Dublin, Ireland, to familiarize themselves with mental health care delivery in that country.
The Omanhene of the Owirenkyiman Traditional Area and the Chief of Assin Kushia, Nana Prah Agyensaim I, who presented the award, promised the winners 1000 dollars cash.
The winners used the occasion to launch the “Ghana Goes Green (3G) Campaign” which has the slogan; “Shatter the Stigma and Mend the Mind,” aimed at sensitizing the Government and the public on promoting mental health care in the country.
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