Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In Ghana, two ministries cooperate to get Mental Health Bill passed

From the Ghana News Agency:

ACCRA, Ghana -- Mr Enoch Teye Mensah, Minister of Employment and Social Welfare said on April 19 that his sector ministry will collaborate with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to pass the Mental Health Bill.

He made this known at a four-day West Africa Conference of Mental Health Service Users Association in Accra, on the theme: "Increasing the Role of Service Users in Community Mental Health."

The association is dedicated to users of mental health services to increase networking and strengthening the course of people with mental illnesses through advocacy.

It was organised by Basic Needs, an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to transforming lives of people with mental illness and sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and CBM International, another NGO in Mental Health.

Mr Mensah noted that due to stigmatisation, most people could not access mental care.

Dr Akwasi Osei, Chief Psychiatrist of MOH, expressed satisfaction about efforts by the two ministries to pass the bill and called for a push of the legal framework to make life meaningful to users of mental health services.

"I am looking forward to the day when users would determine what they need and not the other way round. The days of superstition are over, and we are in the era of medicine discovery which enable users to live normally," he said.

Dr Osei said the role of the community should not be underestimated and advocated strong user groups to fight their cause and demand what is rightly theirs.

In a speech read on his behalf, Dr Daniel Kertesz, WHO Representative in Ghana said mental health programmes should be treated beyond curative health care.

He expressed the need for people with mental problems to be insulated from stigma, given psychological support, rehabilitation and prevention from harm from alcohol and substance abuse.

Mr Julian Eaton, CBM International West Africa Adviser on Mental Health, advocated strong mental movements in Africa.

"We have some good, strong examples of great success in this area (Uganda and South Africa) with Ghana leading the way for West Africa, while those in Nigeria look forward to learning from their experience.

"We need to make a movement that has its own authentic voice, which is able to get a clear understanding of what is wanted by ordinary service users, and then to communicate that powerfully to those who make decisions," he added.

Mr Peter Yaro, Programme Manager of Basic Needs (MEHSOG) said the Mental Health Society of Ghana was established to represent and foster a broad-based movement of people to mobilise and to make their voices heard in addressing their needs and concerns.

He expressed the hope that learning and sharing at the conference would increase co-operation, not competition; reduce personal egos that sometimes tend to affect people's movement, for the good of the many.

Mr Yaro pledged the commitment of management of Basic Needs to work to assist the more than 17,400 people with mental illness or epilepsy, out of which 10,730 are members of MEHSOG.