GHANA — The Mental Health Authority (MHA), a government institution responsible for managing and regulating mental health services in Ghana, has expressed worry over the increasing mental health difficulties among teenagers in schools and women.

Another urgent concern raised by MHA is the increased prevalence of perinatal mental health disorders, which refer to women’s psychological well-being throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and for up to a year after birth.

This disclosure was made by the Authority’s Chief Executive, Professor Pinamang Appau, as she highlighted study findings revealing that nearly 10% of Ghanaian youth fit the criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis.

These difficulties have a major negative impact on academic achievement, social interactions, and overall well-being.

Speaking at a public mental health forum in Kumasi, she stated that the youth are experiencing alarmingly high rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, behavioural addictions such as gambling, and attempted suicide.

Prof. Appau emphasized that mothers’ mental health during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period has a significant impact on their infants’ health outcomes, particularly in terms of nutrition and growth.

Over the last two decades, research has consistently shown a high frequency of prenatal depression in Ghana, with rates of up to 50.1%.

Suicidal thoughts is present in 13-17 percent of affected mothers.

“This is distressing,” she commented. “Our lives are full of ups and downs, and experiencing emotional difficulties, whether sadness or anxiety, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.”

KNUST and KATH collaborated to organise the “It’s Ok!” forum.

Prof. Appau emphasised the need of removing stigma from mental health concerns and encouraged individuals in need to seek help without shame.

She went on to say that the situation of mental health in Ghana is an important issue that requires communal responsibility and action.

To effectively address these concerns, the Mental Health Authority has created methods for generating home-grown data and improving local mental health research.

Prof. Appau has advocated for improved working conditions for mental health professionals so that they can provide quality services to their customers.

On her part, Dr. Mrs. Ruth Owusu-Antwi, the Head of Psychiatry at KATH, echoed the sentiment that mental health issues are pervasive, affecting individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life.

She emphasized the importance of seeking early help for mental health issues, noting that stress is the number one risk factor for mental breakdown. Research indicates that over 40 percent of Ghanaians experience moderate-to-severe stress levels.

 “We must normalize seeking help early when one detects signs of a mental breakdown so that it does not progress to be severe,” Dr. Owusu-Antwi advised.

Prof. Mrs. Rita Akosua Dickson, the Vice-Chancellor of KNUST, pointed out that help for mental health issues is readily available.

She called on Ghanaians to have bold conversations about mental health and to avoid suffering in silence.

By promoting open discussions and providing support, the stigma associated with mental health can be reduced, leading to better outcomes for those affected.

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