The Mental Health Society of Ghana (MEHSOG) in partnership with BasicNeeds Ghana (BNGh) is implementing a project, titled “Support Government of Ghana to build a National Mental Health System that effectively and efficiently respond to the mental health needs of the population”, funded by Department for International Development (DfID) UK. Both organizations in this project work in an effort to foster the needed partnership/collaboration with relevant stakeholders in a desire to support the enhancement of community mental health services, and meet the needs of people with mental illness and their carers and families.
A key aspect of the project is to share information relating to mental health in Ghana, providing alternative human centred solutions to mental health in Ghana. As part of activities to achieve these, a Community Durbar was organised to educate the general public on issues of mental health and promote the needs and rights of people with mental illness, their primary care-givers and families.
The theme for the program was “Inclusion of people with mental illness and epilepsy in government social intervention programmes at the local governance level to enhance recovery, participation and reintegration for National Development”.
The durbar brought together distinguish guest including member of parliament for the area, chiefs, opinion leaders, Assembly men and women, health workers, Community Development workers, Social Welfare, Media and the general public.
The event started with an opening prayer from a participant and a member of a Self Help Group of Mental ill people in the area. The Master of ceremonies who doubles as the Executive Secretary of Mental Health Society of Ghana, Humphrey Kofie continued with his welcome address, profile of MEHSOG and purpose of the gathering. He said, the durbar was meant to educate the community on issues related to mental health and to ensure that persons with mental illness are not stigmatised.
It was also to raise awareness and draw the attention of the government and other stakeholders on the need to extend social intervention programmes particularly the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to persons with mental illness.
He added that the durbar was to reduce stigma and discrimination among persons with mental illness. It is a common believe that persons with mental illness are outcast in the communities but he challenge that and said if their capacities are built and giving the opportunity they will be able to make some impart in terms of social development Humphrey said.
The Project officer, Eunice Tetteh who represented the Executive Director of BasicNeeds- Ghana used the occasion to give a brief profile of BasicNeeds Ghana and stress on what Humphrey Kofie said and thank DfID for continuous funding mental health
After, Director of BasicNeeds’ representative speech, there was a Drama performance titled “Everything is Possible” by Accra Eleven Creative Group. After the interlude, the solidarity messages began to pour in. They followed in this sequence.
A User, Dora Ashong was the next to do a presentation on behalf of the National Executives of MEHSOG. She said as a User, she was very happy the community durbar was held in the Kasoa Community. She explained that the durbar would give people or relatives of people with mental illness to seek treatment when they suffer any mental health condition. She added that the durbar would enable the Municipal Assembly identify Users with the area and extend government Social Intervention programs to them as well. She was hopeful that the occasion would be enhance the membership drive that has already started within the Municipality to get self help groups formed. She was very optimistic that MEHSOG would grow with the increase in membership from the Ewutu Senya District.
The Municipal Director of Health Services of Awutu Senya East, Dr Gifty Sunkwa-Mills was on leave and delegated the Community Psychiatric Nurse in charge at the Polyclinic, Joana Annan. In a speech read for her, the Director of Health Services, said mental illness is a condition that could affect everybody and urged the general public to report cases of mental illness at the Community Psychiatric Unit of the Polyclinic. She further explained that disappointments in relationships and marriages could also cause mental health challenges. She explained that the perception that mental illness was as a result of curses was erroneous. She encouraged participants not to discriminate against people with mental illness but rather protect them.
Next to speak was the Honorable Member of Parliament, Honorable Mavis Hawa Koomsom was thankful for the organizers of the programme. She suggested that such good programmes be held either on weekends or on holidays. She said everyone walking in Ghana is somehow mentally sick. She told the gathering of a statement a psychiatric doctor said there is a fraction mental illness in everybody. She urged everyone to use the opportunity to sensitize members about the mental health. She said the burden of mental health is not limited to any specific persons. She called for more of such community collaborative programmes and to step up education on mental health.
The next to speak was the presiding member of the Awutu Senya East Municipal Assembly, Honorable Mustapha who spoke on behalf of the Municipal Chief Executive, Hon. Dr. Adams Nuhu. He agreed with the Member of Parliament’s submission that subsequent durbar on such issues be held on either a Weekend or a public holiday. He further related his speech to the drama when he referred to the fact that the mentally ill person in the drama knew that he had to dispose of the rubbish she was holding properly but most of us who claim we are mentally well disposed off refuse indiscriminately at wrong places. He added that mentally ill people could be useful to society if given the opportunity but most of the time they are taken as people who are good for nothing.
In his closing remark and vote of thanks to end the durbar the Executive Secretary of MEHSOG, Humphrey Kofie urged participants of the durbar to be ambassadors of mental health and keep propagating the message. He thanks every one especially the chiefs, presiding member, assemblymen, Member of Parliament and the media.
The durbar was then brought to a close with a Muslim prayer, bringing the durbar to a close at 12:30pm.
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