VICE PRESIDENT John Mahama has promised to use his position to support early passage of the Mental Health Bill into law and also raise awareness among the public about mental health.
This, he says, is to ensure the provision of safe and effective mental health care in Ghana.
The Mental Health Bill is currently before Parliament and Mr. Mahama says he will dialogue with the leadership of the House as well as the health ministry about removing any bottlenecks that presently exist to facilitate its early passage.
Speaking at an interaction with the faculty, resource persons and Ghanaian participants at Yale Universityâ€™s Global Health Leadership Institute (GHLI), Mr. Mahama acknowledged that in many countries including Ghana, there has been a neglect of mental health.
â€śOften, we have concentrated on some areas of health like tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, which have received lots of attention. Mental health is one of the areas we have neglected for too long,â€ť he noted.
The Vice President agreed that the low awareness of mental health and the stigma associated with it requires strong governmental support to change.
According to him, President Mills has already demonstrated that support when he visited the Accra Psychiatric Hospital recently. Government has also started facility expansion works at the Akanful Psychiatric Hospital, he said.
Ghana has three public psychiatric hospitals with only 12 psychiatric doctors and no occupational therapist. It is estimated that Ghana has a psychiatric treatment gap of 98 per cent. Mental health currently takes only 3.6 per cent of the overall health budget and according to Vice President Mahama, mental health must be looked at more critically.
Ghana was part of five countries that participated in the Yale GHIL 2011 programme. The Ghanaian participants were Dr. Frank Nyonator, Director of Policy Planning at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Akwasi Osei, Chief Psychiatrist of Ghana, Dr. Angela Ofori-Atta, a Professor of Clinical Psychology, Joseph Akati Saaka, MP for Bole Bamboi and member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah, Head of Policy Analysis at the Ministry of Health and Deputy Health Minister, Rojo Mettle-Nunoo.