Bravo Patricio! Thanks for reminding us about this very neglected but important issue of mental health. You have helpfully reminded us of the journey which has brought us here today--the context of our past, our cultural and societal understandings, and the burden of disability and stigma. You draw out two very important aspects that I wanted to add my thoughts on: 1. WHO's Mental Health Action Plan and 2. What this means for us here at the country level in Ghana.
The WHO Action Plan provides the foundation for us take actions forward at a country and local level. Many countries are now struggling for mental health to receive the attention, services and resources it needs to take this forward. Ghana is one of them.
There is no doubt that Ghana has a long way to go to improve mental health services. There are no population-based figures to show the extent of mental illness, estimates range from 650,000 with severe mental disorders to a general figure of 2.4 million Ghanaians living with various mental disorders. It is estimated that only 2% of the population have access to some form of care.
Ghana has had a long and diffuclt history of mental illness treatment and care. However, I think the recent and current efforts give us all cause for hope. In 2012, Ghana passed the The Mental Health Act of 846. Since then, there has been additional mental health officers trained, community and primary care referral structures put in place and excellent cross working with communities and faith organisations to reduce stigma. The Mental Health Board has been established and just two weeks ago the strong foundations were placed through the Legislative Instrument. The process as well as the outcomes were so encouraging to see--faith communities, self help groups, traditional leaders, clinicians, pharmacists, and other health professionals, all working together to detail and agree on the organisation and structures of the new Mental Health Authority.
There is still a very long way to go: health workers are few, services are far, drugs are scarce. Faith and community services play a key role in picking up and providing for many of the poor who do not have the money or the information to receive diagnosis and treatment. But alongside this, I also see strong health leadership, passionate advocates, talented healthworkers, and dedicated NGOs, CSOs and faith communities all working collectively to remind us that good mental health is not just for the few who are suffering with addictions,pyschosis, or other conditions, it is for the good of all of us.