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The Shocking Way Ghana is Dealing with Mental Illness

Ghana is a country where spiritual and herbal healing traditions intertwine with one of the most successful universal healthcare insurance systems on the African continent. It has distinguished itself with a vaccination programme that compares well to other sub-Saharan countries and the government has made efforts to start to tackle the daunting medical professional skills shortage, a gap currently filled by faith healers, herbalists and con artists. But, like in much of the rest of the world, mental illness is stigmatised and under-resourced. Prisons are inappropriately full of people with mental illnesses while medical facilities are empty of psychiatric understanding. There are no medical treatments available across this sprawling region for mental health or neurological conditions like dementia or epilepsy – which are lumped together. Across Ghana, a handful of community mental health nurses, three hospitals and 13 psychiatrists – most of them in the capital, Accra – serve a population of 30 million, and everyone seems to be convinced that psychotic and depressive illnesses are on the rise.