Elizabeth Ofosu, GNA
Accra, Dec. 4, GNA - Stakeholders from mental health and social support agencies have participated in a day’s meeting to discuss ways of strengthening access to rehabilitation services for survivors of torture and organised violence.
Participants included representatives from the Social Welfare Department, Ghana Prison Service, Ghana Health Service, Ghana Federation of Traditional Healers and persons with lived experience of mental illness.
The engagement was organised as an activity under a project titled: "Strengthening access to timely and quality rehabilitation to survivors of Torture and Organised Violence (TOV) in Ghana."
It is being sponsored by the DIGNITY Danish Institute against Torture in Denmark, with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark.
The project, which is being implemented in the Ga West and Ledzokuku-Krowor Municipalities in the Greater Accra Region and Zabzugu District and Tamale Metro in the Northern Region, is estimated to affect 350 traumatised individuals comprising mental patients, victims of domestic violence and returned migrants.
Secondary beneficiaries shall include 240 individuals drawn from health workers, traditional and faith-based healers, chiefs and opinion leaders, local authorities and 350, 000 residents in the communities.
The project seeks to identify and address the issues of trauma, torture and organized violence that people with mental illness face when they access treatment, especially from traditional and faith-based healers.
It forms part of efforts to rehabilitate survivors of traumatic experiences such as domestic violence, failed migration and assault from security services among others.
Dr Akwasi Osei, the Chief Executive Officer of Mental Health Authority, said “this project is crucial for improved mental health in Ghana”.
He expressed the hope that in future, the project would be expanded to make the interventions available to many people.
Mr Peter Badimak Yaro, the Executive Director of BasicNeeds-Ghana, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, said the project’s interventions were informed by an earlier research conducted by his outfit in 2018, to determine the extent of trauma suffered by patrons of traditional and faith-based healing centres.
He said the research has revealed that many people with mental illness or epilepsy access treatment from traditional and faith-based healers because they believe their illness has some spiritual cause.
Through assigning causes and effects to these conditions, some religious leaders, opinion leaders, traditional and faith-based healers in many local communities play a key role in the stigmatisation of vulnerable patients which impedes access to care, hence the project, which seeks to address such stigmatisations.
Peter Yaro gave the assurance that BasicNeeds-Ghana and partners will increase awareness on mental health, trauma and post-traumatic disorders occurring in faith-based/traditional healing centres and formal health centres; as well as promote linkages between such faith-based healing centres and official health centres.
In 2017, Ghana ratified the UN Convention on Torture which establishes a system of regular visits to places of detention as a way to protect detainees from torture and treatment.
Ghana has ratified eight of the 10 international human rights treaties and the Constitution prohibits the use of torture or degrading treatment.