Mental health sector needs revamping [Article]

Mental Health is not a taboo or a strange thing. I think it is a field where more attention needs to be paid to in medicine study.

People tend to think those with mental health problems are “mad” or “crazy”. Truth be told, we all are at risk of becoming those we are tagging.

Mental health entails a lot. A person who claims to be normal can be going through distresses like Depression, hallucinations, delusions, Dementia, and Schizophrenia. Although these do not affect one’s social life, or activities, that person cannot be termed to have PSYCHOSIS, says a nurse from the Accra Psychiatric Hospital. He says, “Many of these people we term as mad people are Psychotic patients, when being cared for, and given the right medication, they would be well again.”

Without exaggerating, I happened to have lived in Ghana for the past 10 years and in Accra, I can say we literally live with “mentally unstable people”. We share the streets, markets, bus stops, and almost everywhere with them.

This is not to say they are less human beings than we are, but they are humans with special needs.

It is unfortunate that due to weak family systems, we are unable to pay enough attention to these members of families.

A majority, if not all mentally ill patients begin from home or are from a home with family members before they got on the streets and are abandoned.

Now, particularly in Accra, walking on the streets without fear of getting chased or stoned by one
of these mentally ill patients roaming the streets is almost impossible.

These vagrants cause a nuisance in society, since they are unwell, and some of their behaviours
cannot be retaliated, so if they hurt you, you cannot fight them but walk away and go get
yourself checked.

I happen to be a victim, sometime in 2020, along the “Dankwa roundabout” in Accra, I was on my way to “circle from Osu”, now, here there was this “mad woman” who was obviously pissed at something and was talking and screaming at someone no one sees, she continues to go sit on the floor around the roundabout, then I and some others were walking past, I was engulfed with fear so much so that I began walking very briskly.

I turned to look at her and just then I felt something hard fall just a few distances away from my leg, only for me to turn to look, it was a stone. I counted myself lucky for not enduring a stone to
the skull (it has happened before).

There is one always at the police headquarters Junction leading to the British High Commission
and the Ghana Institute of Journalism, she is always seen lying by the pavement with a wound
on her leg, students always fear passing by her but have no choice, not even the police see it
important to take her from there to the psychiatric hospital.

It is very unpleasant seeing them on the streets, particularly in the capital where there are lots of
visitors and potential investors.

These vagrants tend to collect waste from wherever they can, settle on pavements by the roadsides assumed to be their abode causing a nuisance and adding to the already dirty city we are trying to make clean.

The Mental Health Authority as of February 2020 says there were 20,000 “mad people” on the streets nationwide and about 2,000 can be found in Accra.

According to the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, Dr. Akwasi Osei, a four
year strategic plan (2019-2023) is on implementation and it seeks to take off the streets these
mentally ill people for treatment and reintegration into society.

He said this would cost them GHC254 million every year to roll out this four-year strategy which
is a good one but how is that churning out?

It is embarrassing and sad at the same time to see these people on the streets uncared for.
There are 16 regions in Ghana now but there are only 3 public psychiatric hospitals in the
country. This section of the health sector also needs attention. If government is unable to build a
whole facility soon, there should be Psychiatric wings within the community hospitals.

Speaking with a nurse at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital who corrected me many times not to
refer to these people as “mad people”, he told me that, the challenges the patients are facing is
more than what the nurses are facing.

One major challenge he mentioned is STIGMATIZATION. Getting out into society to move
on with life is almost difficult because of the stigma. Saying that on the side of the nurses,
explaining to others that their patient is not “mad” is quite challenging.

He concluded by saying, “mentally ill people are humans who need support, care, love, and
attention, not rejection”. He again advised that more mental hospitals should be built to
accommodate more mentally challenged people, and also help reduce vagrants. More mental
health hospitals should be built to train more mental nurses”.

We can sanitize our streets, cities, and nation as a whole if we get these vagrants off the streets
to the psychiatric hospitals for them to be cared for. To make this possible, more people should
get into the service and logistics should be provided for the already existing hospitals to aid them accommodate these vagrants and even those who cannot trace their families and have
had to remain in the hospital even after getting well.

Mental disorders can be cured, it is not a hopeless situation!