Prof Mike Oquaye
It is the most reassuring promise yet on mental health management in the country from officialdom. When a Speaker of Parliament in the mould of the Rt Hon. Mike Oquaye drops an assurance that the empowering Legislative Instrument (LI) to operationalise mental law in the country would soon be passed, there is cause to be joyful.
Mental health is the most ignored segment of health delivery in our country. The cultural undertones which are responsible somewhat for this situation are not alone in this direction: ignorance of what constitutes a mental imbalance and therefore requiring expert attention is a major cause.
Until we understand when to turn to a psychiatrist for their expert intervention just like we do when we have abdominal discomfort, such a legislation would not yield the desired result.
We demand the education of Ghanaians about mental health, when to seek help and the de-stigmatisation of the condition. These are very important if we must make headway in reversing the ignorance about mental health.
We recall a former head of the main psychiatric hospital in Accra saying that there are many victims of mental imbalance in the streets than in the confinement of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital in Asylum Down.
There are many occurrences making it to the pages of newspapers which are clear instances of mental imbalance. Fathers who impregnate their daughters and other weird developments are of course matters which must first be diagnosed by the medical experts before even considering a judicial action.
In a modern society, stress and depression are indisputable attributes of a psychiatric challenge. When they persist in a person for a long time, the outcome can lead to a mental imbalance. In spite of this, however, we hardly consider a referral of such cases to psychiatrists.
In our typical families suggesting such a referral can earn one a stigma yet this is an intervention which is necessary for the isolation of the condition and treatment. Long after treatment and even recovery, former patients would always be considered as lunatics when they step on the nerves of others.
Some of the cases now referred to as femicides or the murder of women by their husbands could have originated from undiagnosed cases of psychosis or other forms of mental imbalance.
Some of these cases are so concealed that it can only take an expert to isolate. Imagine someone winning the hearts of a congregation who turns round to tell them about his conversation with angels. When he eventually somewhat hypnotises them, they are ready to do his bidding – his condition having infected somewhat.
There many women and men, of course, who do not know about the mental imbalance which comes with childbirth in some cases and how this must be treated by psychiatrists.
The foregone and the earlier points buttress the point that education about mental health should not be ignored but rather given a boost with the necessary funding to make the desired impact.
The Ghana Mental Health Authority has a Herculean task at hand reality which can be surmounted only when the agency is provided with the necessary budgetary support.
The roll call of psychiatrists in the country, we have learnt, is appalling low and needs reversing.
Mr. Speaker’s words should come to pass because anybody can suffer a mental imbalance just like they can malaria or abdominal discomfort.