In a bid to combat the pervasive stigmatization faced by individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, the Mental Health Authority of Ghana has called on Ghanaians to foster a culture of acceptance, support, and empathy.
The appeal made by the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, Madame Pinaman Appau during a press briefing as part of activities to mark the 2023 World Schizophrenia Day, advised that Ghanaians to develop a culture of acceptance, support and empathy to help overcome the fight against the global illness.
Schizophrenia, a chronic and severe mental disorder affecting millions worldwide, has long been marred by misconceptions and discrimination. Persons with schizophrenia often face isolation, marginalization, and prejudice due to societal ignorance and fear. The Mental Health Authority, recognizing the urgent need for change, has taken a proactive stance to address this pressing issue.
During the press briefing, Madame Pinaman Appau emphasized that, persons living with schizophrenia, “are not defined by their diagnosis but by their resilience, strength and inherent worth.”
Quoting the famous words of Mahatma Gandhi, she emphasized the importance of collective efforts in eradicating the stigmatization faced by individuals with schizophrenia.
“Sterming from this, the true measure of our Ghanaian society is out there for all to see. Every day, these individuals (persons living derelict in the street) with schizophrenia, perhaps the most vulnerable of them all, face significant challenges, including stigma, discrimination and social isolation. We firmly believe that under this leadership and with the power of community kindness, our Ghanaian society will make a transformative difference in their lives.”
Madame Appau further underscored the significance of educating the public about schizophrenia to dispel myths and promote understanding. She added that there is the need to recognize that individuals with this mental health condition can lead productive lives and contribute meaningfully to society if provided with appropriate support and treatment.
Chairperson of the Mental Health Authority Board, Madame Estelle Appiah highlighted the challenges faced by authority which impede progress in schizophrenia management. “The challenges that exist include insufficient funding, inadequate resources, brain drain of mental health professionals, challenges with accessibility to service and subpar awareness and understanding of mental health issues, including schizophrenia, discrimination and the violation of human rights including chaining and shackling. She described these as “obstacles we must confront head-on. The journey towards a more inclusive society requires a collective effort and a commitment to change,”.
To achieve this culture of acceptance, the Mental Health Authority intends to implement various initiatives. These initiatives together with stakeholders and funding support will focus on raising awareness through educational campaigns, encouraging open dialogue, and collaborating with community leaders, healthcare professionals, and civil society organizations.
Every May 24, the world observes World Schizophrenia Awareness Day, a day set aside to increase public awareness of the 20 million+ persons who are affected by mental illness globally. The theme for 2023 is “Celebrating the Power of Community Kindness.”