Inadequate medical supplies is worsening the health status of mentally ill people in the Northern Region who largely depend on government’s support for their drugs.

This situation, according to the Executive Director of Gub-Katimali Society, Sheikh Yakubu Abdul Karim, requires government’s prompt action.

He noted with deep concern that irregular supply and the periodic shortage of medications meant for mentally ill people is inimical to the promotion of sound mental health in Ghana.

Sheikh Yakubu Abdul Karim was addressing chiefs, queen mothers, assembly members and opinion leaders in the Zabzugu and Tatale-Sanguli districts of the Northern Region.

The ongoing region-wide durbar is spearheaded by Gub-Katimali Society in collaboration with BasicNeeds Ghana and funded by the DFID and USAID.

He urged them to serve as ambassadors of change by condemning stigmatization and all forms of human rights abuses of mentally ill people in their communities.

“The purpose of organizing these meetings is to encourage you to join the advocacy in promoting quality mental health in this country.”

He implored the Ministry of Health to rapidly make available medications meant for mentally ill people especially those in the Northern Region where poverty is endemic.

“Making available medications for persons with mental illness and epilepsy will help in preempting any form of relapse of the health of those who are still undergoing treatment in various hospitals across the Northern Region.”

Sheikh Yakubu Abdul Karim nonetheless, commended Bole, East Gonja, Kumbungu, Karaga, Zabzugu, Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo, West Gonja and Nanumba South District Assemblies for their continuous support to people with mental illness.

“These districts have been giving money to PWMIE in their communities to buy their medications anytime they run short and medications from central government are not made available on time.”

“Gub-Katimali Society and our partners, Basic Needs-Ghana also do supply them with medications.”

He explained that the workshop was organized as part of the implementation of a 5-year (2013 – 2018) DFID/USAID mental health and development project in all 26 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in the Northern Region.

“The project is aimed at supporting the government of Ghana to build a national mental health system that effectively and efficiently responds to the mental health needs of Ghanaians. This will reduce the wide mental health treatment gap currently existing in Ghana and enable men, women, girls and boys with neuropsychiatric conditions to live and work successfully in their communities.”

“The project also seeks to increase capacity of Ghana’s Mental Health Authority to effectively and efficiently run community based mental health services; and support 100,000 male and female adults as well as children with mental health needs to access quality mental health services within the proximity of their communities.”

“Furthermore, the project is to ensure an organized and active mental health service user and care-giver movements get involved in mental health service and policy advocacy in Ghana and reduce social stigma and discrimination towards PWMIE.”

A Public Education and Investigative Officer at the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in the Northern Region, Inusah Iddrisu, cautioned the general public against violating the civil liberties and human rights of PWMIE.

“Any citizen of Ghana who suffers from any form of mental illness still have their basic human rights and freedoms intact for them to enjoy. Such rights must be respected by their families, health personnel, employers and other members of the public as stated by the country’s constitution,” he stressed.

Inusah Iddrisu added that, “It is a crime to beat, torture, rape and deny PWMIE treatment or sack them from their places of work. The security agencies particularly the police should not delay in seeking justice for such vulnerable people when issues concerning their health and welfare come to their notice.”

Gub-Katimali Society (GKS) is a non-profit-making non-governmental organization based in Tamale in the Northern Region.

It is committed to bringing change and improvement in the lives of the vulnerable and the downtrodden.

It also seeks to sensitize, empower and enable local communities to realize their own development through collective participation, partnership and pooling of resources together for sustainable development.

Since 2013, over 11 thousand PWMIE, caregivers of PWMIE, staff of MMDAs, journalists, leadership of Trade Unions, traditional leaders as well as health personnel have benefited in various ways from the DFID/USAID sponsored project which is due to phase out in 2018.