MentalIllness Stigma in Ghana
MentalIllness Stigma in Ghana
Mentalillness is a public health concern globally. Globally, one in sixpeople experience mental health problem at one time in their lives.In Ghana, this problem is not exceptional. According to a report bythe World Health Organization (WHO), in 2007, there were 650,000people with mental health problems in Ghana, out of the generalpopulation of 21.6 million residents (WHO, 2007). Mental illness canaffect anyone regardless of their social class, religion or age. Likeelsewhere in the world, people with mental illness in Ghana facestigmatization from their families, relatives, community as well asin the workplace. There are different reasons why people perceivemental health patients as less desirable or pleasant (Crabb et al.2012 Fink& Tasman, 1992).
Mentalhealth patients normally exhibit various symptoms which affect theway they behave or conduct themselves when relating to other peopleor in different situations. People with mental health problemstherefore face stigma. They are discriminated, isolated andstereotyped as crazy or incapable of functioning normally or fittingto the society even after treatment. The problem in Ghana isaggravated by the fact that, people in Ghana usually perceive mentalillness as a result of either genetic making, or demonic attack orcurse (Fournier, 2011). As a result, they do not believe in orthodoxtreatment of mental illness and it is common for mentally ill peopleto be subjected to discriminatory and demeaning situations. Mostoften, the mental health patients in Ghana are flogged, chained,incarcerated in spiritual prayer camps or shrines in order to get ridof the alleged demons resulting to the mental illness (Read,Adiibokah & Nyame, 2009). To cope with stigma most patients optto high degree of secrecy regarding their status (Dako-Gyeke &Asumang, 2013).
Stigmatizationcomes from the family members, society as well as in the workplace.When a family member is mentally ill, most Ghanaians tend todiscriminate against them. They may abandon or isolate them. This isdue to the stigma that is also subjected to members of the family bythe society (Corrigan & Miller, 2004). People in Ghana believe incurses or demonic invasion in a family of a mentally ill person,hence lead them to hide or dissociate with a mentally ill person.
Thesociety also holds negative attitudes towards the mentally sick. Theybelieve that they are unstable and dangerous. This is largely becausemajority of mentally ill people in Ghana are in the streets, beggingfor food or money or chasing pedestrians (Barke, Nyarko & Klecha,2011). This stereotype accelerates the negative view of the societytowards this group. In addition, in the workplace they are perceivedas incompetent or unsuitable to work even though they have receivedmedical treatment. This is because most employers see them as athreat to other employees’ and customers’ safety. This lack ofemployment and continued stigma pushes a person to poverty and mayaccelerate their symptoms or cause a relapse.
Themental problem in Ghana is so serious that, only 2 people in ahundred of the mentally sick get the needed care. To address theissue of stigma towards the mentally ill in Ghana, there are variousefforts that have been put mostly by international organizations. Forexample, the UK-based organization NHS in collaboration with KintampoProject works to promote mental health services for the greatestnumber of people without access to help in Ghana (Southern HealthNHS, n.d). Training of mental health workers is one way that thisgroup uses to address the issue of mental health in Ghana.
Negativeattitude has been seen to decline with education. Interventions thatcan work well in Ghana entail integration of the mentally ill peoplein the community who are suffering from mental disorder intovocational schools with assistance of other professionals. Teachers,religious leaders, social workers and psychiatrist together can helpin improving the attitudes of the community towards the mentally illthrough this integration (Weiss,Ramakrishna & Somma, 2006).
Educationin schools and in the community also help the society understandabout mental illness. With the negative connotations that are givento mentally ill being so demeaning, education can help reduce suchform of discrimination (Rogers& Pilgrim, 2010).Most of the discrimination happens due to ignorance and througheducation, mentally ill people can get the support and love theyneed.
Inaddition, media campaigns involving the mentally ill and the membersof the society and professionals can help in reducing stigmaassociated with the mentally ill. Through such interventions, familymembers and the society can see that mental illness is a problem thatcan be improved with support and care (Corrigan & Kleinlein,2005).
Conclusively,mentally ill people need care, love and support. Through variousintervention programs including integration into school as well asmedia campaigns, negative attitudes or stigma can be reduced. Withreduced stigma, mentally ill people are able to improve and bereconnected with their families, go back to work and continue livingfulfilling lives. Family members are also affected by the stigma,hence such interventions allow them to live with their sick membersand support them to recovery.
Barke,A. Nyarko, S. & Klecha, D. (2011). The stigma of mental illnessin Southern Ghana: attitudes of the urban population and patients`views. SocialPsychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology 46(11),1191.
Corrigan,P. W., & Miller, F. E. (2004). Shame, blame, and contamination: Areview of the impact of mental illness stigma on family members.Journalof Mental Health, 13(6),537−548.
Corrigan,P., & Kleinlein, P. (2005). The impact of mental illness stigma.In P. Corrigan (Ed.), On the stigma of mental illness: Practicalstrategies for research and social change (pp.             11-44). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Crabb,J., Stewart, R. C., Kokota, D., Masson, N., Chabunya., S., &Krishnadas, R. (2012). Attitudes towards mental illness in Malawi: Across-sectional survey. BMCPublic Health,12, 541.
Dako-Gyeke,M. & Asumang, S.E. (2013). Stigmatization and DiscriminationExperiences of Persons with Mental Illness: Insights from aQualitative Study in Southern Ghana. SocialWork and Society International Online Journal, 11(1).
Fink,P. & Tasman, A. (1992). Stigmaand mental illness.Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
Fournier,O. A. (2011). The status of mental health care in Ghana, West-Africaand signs of progress in the greater Accra region. BerkeleyUndergraduate Journal, 24(3),9-34.
Read,U. M., Adiibokah, E., & Nyame, S. (2009). Local suffering and theglobal discourse of mental health and human rights: An ethnographicstudy of responses to mental illness in rural Ghana. Globalizationand Health, 5(13),1-16.
Rogers,A., & Pilgrim, D. (2010). Asociology of mental health and illness.McGraw-Hill International.
SouthernHealth NHS. (n.d). WorldMental Health Day continues to try to break down stigma – in Ghanaand in the UK.Retrievedhttp://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news/archive/wmhd-kintampo/(Accessed December 17, 2014).
Weiss,M. G., Ramakrishna, J., & Somma, D. (2006). Health-relatedstigma: Rethinking concepts and interventions 1. Psychology,Health & Medicine,11(3),277-287.
WorldHealth Organization. (2007). Mentalhealth improvements for nations: Country summary series,Ghana.Retrievedhttp://www.who.int/mental_health/policy/country/GhanaCoutrySummary_Oct2007.pdf(Accessed December 17, 2014).