Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. This is heart breaking; an extreme physical sign of the prevalence of mental health.
Mental health is an area of health care which is so often neglected in the pursuit of quality, accessible and equitable health care. Systems and structures have not been properly put in place to address and deal with mental health issues. Coupled with the stigma and lack of understanding around mental illness, ‘victims’ resort to suicide as a relief from their troubles.
According to WHO, out of the estimated 21.6 million of Ghana’s population, 650,000 people suffer from a severe mental disorder and 2,166,000 suffer from a moderate to mild mental disorder. Even though mental health care services are available at most levels of care, adequate and reliable care are mostly provided through specialized psychiatric hospitals which are close to the capital cities. Accessibility to these facilities are limited to only a small proportion of the population. Lack of government funding and seemingly lack of attention to the issues of mental health are the result of its limited access to a small portion of the population.
Globally, more than 300 million people which represents 4.4% of the world’s population suffer from some form of mental health issue; specifically depression. Despite the universality of mental health, appropriate attention and adequate care and resources have not been allocated to curb it. In some communities, it is a taboo to talk about mental health as it comes with enormous shame and people with mental illness are seen as having a demonic illness.
They are thus ostracized and shamed and left to their ‘fate’. Those who are fortunate to be taken to a psychiatric hospital for treatment are equally left to their ‘fate’, as relatives who took them to the facilities end up being nowhere to be found after leaving them at those facilities. Instead of offering people with mental illness the same support we give to those with physical illnesses, they are criminalized and locked up in chains in the most horrific conditions and cut off from society. Some end up in prayer camps for a ‘prophet’ to cast out the demonic spirit in these people.
The world cannot continue to be silent whilst people with mental health resort to suicide as the only option available to them. Year in, year out, World Mental Health Day is commemorated to unite efforts to improve the mental health of people around the world. This year’s theme is ‘working together to prevent suicide’; and so what can you do to help? We encourage you to take 40 seconds of action to:
- Improve awareness of the significance of suicide as a global public health problem;
- Improve knowledge of what can be done to prevent suicide;
- Reduce the stigma associated with suicide; and
- Let people who are struggling know that they are not alone
Use 40 seconds of your time to show someone that you care; call them, talk to them, listen to them and motivate them.