We must get mental patients off the streets

On August 4, 2022, the Ghanaian Times reported that over 16,000 mentally challenged patients roamed the streets of Ghana resulting in attacks and assaults by mental patients on innocent people.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mental Health Authority, Professor Akwasi Osei attributed this to the lack of funds to remove the mental patients off the streets hence their presence on the streets leading to the increasing number of attacks on innocent citizens.

According to him, “the mentally challenged are to be confined to the psychiatric hospitals for treatment but the lack of funds is making it difficult to get rid of them off the streets” and appealed to the government to provide funding for the removal of these patients from the streets to prevent further incidents.

It is so scary and disturbing to see mental patients roaming the streets, especially in the cites, with some naked and others carrying dangerous weapons and threatening people nearby.

Some mental patients have even butchered or murdered children and adults causing loss and unforgettable pain to families but sadly they (the mental patients) rather walk freely on posing further danger to the citizenry.

There have been reports where some mentally deranged persons have even raped women going about their daily activities at knife point.

Although mental illness can occur as a result of life’s challenges such as marital, excessive abuse of drugs or alcohol among others, in some families it is genetic and one needs to be careful of how the mentally ill are treated.

The Spectator is happy about the call for support to mental patients which is a step in the right direction and the earlier we get rid of the mentally challenged people from our streets the better it will be for the citizenry to move about without fear or panic             

We are all at risk of these attacks, therefore, the government must make mental health a priority in its agenda by providing adequate funds to deal with the situation for the safety of all. 

Reports from the Chief Psychiatrist say that seven years ago, some funding was made available “from which mental patients were taken off the streets gradually back to the psychiatric hospitals, treated free of charge and reintegrated into the communities with their relations but ever since the funding ran out, this is the situation we have found ourselves.”

We are surprised that this noble agenda was stopped; we appeal to the government through the Ministry of Health (MoH) to find a lasting solution to the problem of mental patients posing insecurity to the rest of the citizenry.

The Spectator joins Prof Osei in his advocacy for “the government to establish a Mental Health Fund (MHF) through the introduction of at least GH¢0.50 levy charged on the monthly salary of all workers of the formal sector” which would substantially be enough to cater for mental health treatment for the country.

It is equally important for family members not to neglect their relatives who are mentally deranged as this could cause a relapse but to support and give them the needed love and care to make them stable.

Authorities must ensure that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHS) which was supposed to have covered mental patients’ treatment is implemented to enable relatives of the mentally deranged take them to the hospital for treatment so they do not end up on the streets.  

The government must also supply the psychiatric hospitals with the needed logistics such as adequate drugs for both inmates and out-patients and build more health institutions across the country to accommodate the mentally deranged who are on the streets.   

Additionally, the government should improve conditions of health practitioners so they will deliver their services promptly. 

As a country, there is the need to give much attention to mental health which is a shared responsibility in order to get rid of mental patients off the streets.

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