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There’re only 69 psychiatrists for 33 million Ghanaians – Basic-Needs Ghana

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There remains a significant deficit between the number of people who need mental healthcare and the availability of trained health professionals and mental health facilities across the country.

While the Upper East Region is fortunate to have a psychiatric hospital, about 8 regions do not have such facilities and, as a result, have to rely on traditional psychiatric hospitals in the southern part of the country.

This creates a huge inconvenience and denies many access to mental healthcare. Additionally, there are just 69 psychiatrists serving Ghana’s over 33 million citizens.

The situation is one that calls for serious concern. This is according to Dominic Wunigura of Basic-Needs Ghana, Accra. Mr. Wunigura spoke to A1 Radio’s Mark Smith on the occasion of World Mental Health Day.

“The Upper East Region has a psychiatric hospital and a psychiatrist who offers some services. I should think that we have more than 8 or 9 regions that do not have psychiatrists providing these specialist services. This means that in these other places, if a patient wants some further or specialised care, you have to be referred to Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Patanga and Ankaful for services.”

“But again, just one psychiatrist for the Upper East Region is worrying. We have just 69 psychiatrists in a country of 33 million people. Indeed, we have come a long way, but the gap still remains very wide,” he said. 

Meanwhile, as the world marks 2023 World Mental Health Day under the theme “Mental health is a universal human right,” the Mental Health Alliance, a leading advocacy group, has urged the government and stakeholders to recognize mental health as an inherent human right.

Despite existing international declarations, national legislation, and constitutional provisions safeguarding this right, a large portion of the population is still deprived of adequate mental health care and services, according to the Alliance. 

In line with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the 1992 Constitution of the Fourth Republic of Ghana, and the Mental Health Act 2012 Act 846, mental health is stipulated as an essential aspect of an individual’s overall wellbeing. However, a staggering 90% of Ghanaians in need of mental health care do not receive professional treatment, highlighting a significant gap in mental health services in the country.

The Mental Health Alliance acknowledges the recent establishment of the Mental Health Review Tribunal and Regional Visiting Committees, mandated by law. However, concerns persist as these structures are currently functional in only a fraction of the country, leaving many regions underserved. Additionally, the amended Criminal Offences Bill 2022, designed to prohibit witchcraft accusations in Ghana, is pending presidential assent.

On World Mental Health Day, the Mental Health Alliance has called upon the government to prioritise mental health by doing the following: Ensure that the Mental Health Review Tribunal is fully operational and that Regional Visiting Committees are established in all 16 regions of Ghana, rather than the existing 5 regions. Resource the Mental Health Review Tribunal and Regional Visiting Committees to enable them to protect the mental health of Ghanaians as a human right. Include mental health in the NHIS benefit package and go beyond the rhetoric and Promote mental health in the Universal Health Coverage strategy of Ghana.

Furthermore, the Mental Health Alliance urgently called upon the President to assent to the amended Criminal Offences Bill 2022, reinforcing the commitment to protect the vulnerable from unfounded accusations.

The Alliance for Mental Health and Development (Mental Health Alliance) is a national network of over three hundred CSOs, NGOs, and CBOs engaged in mental health advocacy in Ghana. It has eight regional chapters in the Upper East, Upper West, Northern (Northern, Savannah and NorthEast), Brong Ahafo (Bono, Bono East and Ahafo), Greater Accra, Ashanti, Volta, Central, and Eastern Region.

Source: A1radioonline.com|101.1MHz|Mark Kwasi Ahumah Smith|Ghana

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