Anxiety disorder is one of the critical mental related health issues that often receives less attention in our society and in our governance structure. This malady includes disorders that share features of excessive fear and anxiety and related behavioral disturbances. Fear is the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is anticipation of future threat. It will not be farfetched to say that, this pandemic poses a lot of threat in the form of fear for job loss and anxiety in terms of how one will survive after job loss. Anxiety disorder falls within the circles of mental disorders that the world’s health system faces such as depression, psychosis and bipolar disorders, child and adolescent mental disorders, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Anxiety disorder is no respecter of persons, which can affect the rich, the poor, the politician, the foot soldier, the high-class, and the low-class. The only difference is that, among this category of persons mention,the low-class cannot fly outside to seek for this service due to the deplorable nature of the mental healthcare system we have.
According to WHO, about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of who have just given birth experience mental disorder, primarily depression. In developing countries, these figures are even higher as 15.6% represents pregnant women and 19.8% after childbirth. They further went on to say in a severe case mothers may even commit suicide. There are instances where mothers cannot function properly after birth and this affects negatively the growth and development of the child.
With the partial lockdown we experienced over the period and the “funny” comments (constant lovemaking) by some spouses especially women by their husbands, yet the reality on the ground, one can deduct from same that we may have a high rate of childbirth this year. It therefore suffices to say that if the above-mentioned statistics by WHO is anything to go by, then we may be in trouble hence, the need to focus on how well we can proactively activate our mental healthcare unit to help deal with this.
In Ghana, anxiety disorder is one of the least spoken-about or discussed health-related issuee at least per my observation. It is in line with this that we had the Mental Health Act passed in 2012, with the aim of creating a new system of mental healthcare in Ghana. Among other provisions, the act is to help create a modern community-based mental health system and for the rights of persons with mental disorders. With the current impact of the Covid-19 rendering a lot of people jobless, I dare say that the figures will escalate. Not that I am an admirer of negative news but because a lot more people will lose their jobs especially in the private sector. With these projections, how prepared is our mental healthcare system in terms of the needed medications, staff, financial support (motivation) to deal with the unforeseen burden.
The covid-19 pandemic will go down in history as one of the health-related issues that has affected heavily the mental healthcare system over the world. According to Dr. Madhukar Trivedi and Dr. Sloan Manning who are psychiatrist and primary care physician respectively, the COVID-19 pandemic will permanently change mental health treatment. They further stated that, whether that treatment occurs in a primary care setting or with a specialist, it is likely to happen at least in part via telemedicine.
According to the World Health Organization, Ghana, mental health services in Ghana are available at most levels of care. However, the majority of care is provided through specialized psychiatric hospitals (close to the capital and servicing only a small proportion of the population), with relatively less government provision
How readily prepared are we as a nation in putting in place infrastructure in our healthcare system to facilitate healthcare via E-Health and Telemedicine during this pandemic and post-covid? How well are we integrating the WHO’s comprehensive mental health plan 2013-2020 which was adopted by the 66th World Health Assembly into our own action plan? The major objectives of this action plan included:
- Strengthening effective leadership and governance for mental health
- Providing comprehensive, integrated and responsive mental health and social care services in community-based settings
- Implement strategies for promotion and prevention in mental health
- Strengthen information systems, evidence and research for mental health
After the passing the Mental Health Act 2012, there has been little investment by successive governments into ensuring that, there is full implementation of the act. There has been constant cry by the mental health unit of our healthcare demanding and appealing to governments to come to their aid.
People are already going through a lot of trauma, which has been compounded by this pandemic. The evidence could be seen in the kind of shooting incidence and suicide cases that have made the news over the period. The job lose and other economic-related issues brought about by covid-19, we should expect more of these making our news headlines.
This is the time to do a lot of education through our Information Service Department under the Ministry for Information in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. We must also as a matter of urgency begin to think about innovative means of making metal healthcare accessible by all through infrastructure such as E-Health and Telemedicine. If there is ever a time of thinking about innovative means of solving some of the lingering weakness in our health system as well as our mental healthcare unit its now.
Samuel Mensah Noi
Graduate Student in Communication Studies (Health Communication)
Arkansas State University, United States of America
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