Mental Health experts and campaigners have reignited calls on the government and other relevant stakeholders to prioritize issues relative to mental health by increasing investment in the area.
They bemoan that mental health is mostly considered an afterthought when it comes to the allocation of resources. This, they say, is as a result of the burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases which are given priority over mental health.
Ghana spends just 1.4 percent of total government health expenditure on mental health, and so the encumbrance of mental ill-health continues to grow with serious consequences for the country’s economic and social development as well as the health and wellbeing of its people.
Speaking at a dissemination workshop in Accra on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, Dr Akwasi Osei, Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority emphasized the need for increased investments and attention to mental healthcare in Ghana.
Dr Osei told the gathering that though some progress has been made in the area of mental healthcare in the country, the financial allocations are still not adequate to engender efficient delivery.
In that regard, he advocated the introduction of Mental Health Levy. He explained that treatment of mental illness is expensive which needs more financial support from the central government, donors and everyone.
He used the occasion to appeal to the media to team up with Mental Health Authority to push for the passing of the Mental Health Levy in Parliament.
The dissemination workshop was organized by the Mental Health Society of Ghana (MEHSOG) in collaboration with the Mental Health Authority and funded by the World Health Organization (WHO), UKaid and Ghana Somubi Dwumadie.
In a presentation, on ‘Mental Health Investment Case’ Ms Abena Korkor Addo, a Service User and a Mental Health advocate said the cost of mental illness is extremely high and that a recent estimate put the global cost of depression and anxiety alone at 1.5 trillion US Dollars every year in lost productivity.
In Ghana, It is estimated that nearly seven percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lost due to Psychological distress, compared with Four percent loss of GDP to Malaria.
Ms Addo said there is clear evidence that the benefit of investing in mental health far outweighs the cost. These benefits, according to her, mostly come from gains in productivity when people with mental health conditions can play an active role in their communities and in the workplace.
She mentioned that investing in mental health strengthens poverty reduction efforts while improving population health and reducing the burden on the health systems.
She thus called on the government to address the mental health impact of COVID-19 and the need to increase financial protection, skills, and occupational training for people with mental health conditions.
She further called for the strengthening of Regional Mental Health Sub-Committees and the incorporation of Mental Health into the National Health Insurance Scheme.
Prof J.B Asare, a Retired Consultant Psychiatrist who chaired the workshop underscored the importance of media in making people understand issues around mental health.
He said, “The world is changing, mental health issues are coming to the limelight so we need to make mental health visible. There is no group of people that can help to make people understand the need to invest in mental health than the media…so we need your support.”
He added, “The media can also invest with respect to giving time out to discuss issues of mental health on their platforms.”
Mr Humphrey Kofie, Executive Secretary of MEHSOG in his welcome remarks thanked participants for honouring the invitation and requested of them to assist in pushing government to allocate more resources into mental health care.