The government is working towards the establishment of a mental health fund to be financed from the mental health levy, Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, the Minister of Health, has said.
He said the fund, when established, would help in the successful implementation of the new mental health policy.
Agyemang-Manu was speaking at the launch of a 12-year mental health policy by the Mental Health Authority, in Accra.
He said the launch of the policy was historic not only because it was the first of its kind under the newly created Authority, but also because the COVID-19 pandemic had brought on board heightened issues of mental health and well-being of Ghanaians.
The Minister said although progress had been made in the delivery of mental services, there were still some challenges including underfunding of mental health issues, underfinancing, discrimination and stigmatisation against staff and patients.
Agyemang-Manu said the launch of the policy should see Ghanaians on the path to improving how they viewed and delivered mental health services in the county, and help provide the framework to address the challenges.
He said the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) had widened health beyond physical health to mental and social wellbeing, thus the attainment of the health-related SDG goals could not be eliminated from mental and social wellbeing and that any effort by government and stakeholders would go a long way to ensure that the vision of ensuring a mentally healthy population was achieved.
“The realisation of this vision calls for the reorientation of Ghanaians about mental health and the ability to invest into the sector, thus much as government has improved upon the budgetary allocation to the Authority, it is still not enough,” he added.
He commended the MHA for upholding its mission of promoting mental health, preventing mental illnesses and providing accessible community-oriented, integrated, quality and appropriate mental health care to people with mental health and carrying out its mandate diligently.
Professor Akwesi Osei, chief executive officer, MHA, said the policy was the third to be developed for mental health service, but represented the first policy of the Ministry of Health led by the MHA and initiated by the governing body, the Mental Health Board.
He said the policy was to provide a framework for supporting the achievement of good mental health for people living in Ghana, while being sensitive to culture, resources and geography, amongst other considerations.
The policy covers the promotion of mental health, prevention and management of mental health conditions for all persons, both in the public and private sectors as well as substance use disorders, including alcohol abuse.
It does not include conditions that are purely neurological without mental health conditions, like epilepsy.
Prof Osei said the policy sought to ensure that mental health care was decentralised, stigmatisation and discrimination reduced, with persons with mental health illnesses given full human rights recognition and psychotropic medications made available at all times.
He said the policy had been circulated to some parts of the country and being implemented and commended the government for efforts at establishing mental health fund.
Dr Caroline Amissah, deputy chief executive officer, MHA said “as a country, our mental health statistics is an important indicator for us to determine whether we are healthy or not”.
She said the current focus of mental health in Ghana was community-oriented and thus the new policy gave mental health practitioners a new dimension on how to improve mental health services outside their facilities.
Dr Amissah implored all to embrace the policy as it provided details of what was to be done and who was involved, saying all Ghanaians must become ambassadors of mental health and support the new direction for Ghana to become a wealthy nation.