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October 2012
Insecurity of care of mentally ill patients in rural communities in Ghana

Society for the Settlement of the Physically and Mentally Disabled (SSPMD)

Insecurity of care of mentally ill patients in rural communities in Ghana

Mental illness has the highest burden in Ghana, more particularly in our rural communities/remote areas.

An estimated 25% of the youth and adult population are suffering from mental illnesses, mainly due to high intake of alcohol, smoking, drug abuse, stress arising out of poverty, and extensive domestic activities on the part of women/housewives. These are serious health challenges in our rural communities.

What increases this ailment is also the contribution of stigmatization among families/relatives who in most cases do not want to get closer to their own patients even to give them prescribed medication.

In the exercise to decongest overstayed mentally ill patients at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital in Accra (being the major psychiatric home of care), the hospital authorities discharged over six hundred patients who had lived there for over 30 years. They were discharged and taken to their respective homes instead of sending them to their relatives as it was difficult to locate the homes of the relatives due to their long stay at the hospital without relatives attending to them.

Follow-up investigations in most of the towns where these patients were abandoned show that most of the patients have not yet been identified by their relatives, and are living in uncompleted homes and huts without medication, food, and good drinking water; thus the health of most of them have deteriorated.

Further investigations have revealed that most of the abandoned patients sometimes become furious as a result of hunger and attack school teachers and students in classrooms, chase farmers and persons in the community for food.

This is quite a disturbing situation. In a bid to remedy this situation, our organization has proposed to do a research to identify all the discharged mental patients in some selected regions (at least four regions) and to make this list available to the health authorities and the Department of Social Welfare to assist them with the following facilities: a) identification of their relatives; b) provision of their medication; c) provision of decent accommodation, food, good drinking water, and clothing.

Aims of the research: 1) To assist the District Social and Health Directorates in each district to be able to indentify mental patients discharged and living in their districts, and contact their relatives; 2) To assist the District Directorates to arrange for their medication and to unite them with their families and to identify relatives of these patients and to counsel them for their acceptance; 3) The research will also help the Directorates to identify those without relatives and to take care of their living conditions; and also to help the District Directorates to collect data of mental patients and the discharged patients in order to solve their problems.

A similar exercise would be extended to the elderly mentally ill patients at home without proper care. The causes of mental illness would be investigated in each district and then sent to the appropriate institutions for advice.

The period for the research would be from January to June 2013 (6 months). The research teams will be composed of: a) volunteer/National Services; b) retired clinical nurse/social workers; c) volunteers/data clerks (High School leavers); d) a medical staff from each District Assembly; e) community volunteers (two elderly persons) from each town.

The results to be achieved are the following: 1) At the end of the project, mental patients discharged from our psychiatric homes and those at homes without proper care in each district would be identified; 2) Their identification at each district would also assist their respective District Health and Department of Social Welfare Directorates to be able to assist in providing medication and other essential needs to these patients.

Thomas Amoako Addo
General Secretary, SSPMD

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