The 2017 World Suicide Prevention Week in Ghana was held in the Ashanti Regional capital, Kumasi, from the 6th – 11th September, under the theme: Take a Minute, Change a Life. The event was marked with events over the five days.
Programs and activities observed included the training of police in the region on suicide prevention and suicide data management, media personnel training on suicide and mental health reporting, durbar at the St Georges’ church and Pre-launch of 2017 World Mental Health Week Celebrations. Others were the training of Accident and Emergency Staff on suicide management and the engagement of various stakeholders on suicide.
The official launch of the week long activities took place on the 7th of September at the Training of Media Personnel event. This was a sensitization workshop organized by the Mental Health Authority for Journalists in Kumasi. The training was to enlighten journalists on the Mental Health Act, how to report on suicide, depression, as well as other related cases.
Officials present at the launch included the Director General of the Ghana Health Services, Dr Nsiah Asare; the Director of the Ashanti Regional Health Directorate, Dr Alexis Nanbei-fuba; the CEO of the Mental Health Authority, Dr Akwasi Osei; and the Chief Nursing Officer at the Regional Health Directorate, Mrs. Rita Anarfo.
The Director General of the Ghana Health Services, Dr Nsiah Asare delivered the opening address at the official launch. In his speech, he called for stronger media advocacy for sustainable financing model for mental health services in the country. According to Dr. Nsiah Asare, all mental health patients must be registered onto the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) since it is the only sustainable way of paying for mental health services in most countries worldwide.
He said the GHS would need the support of the media to get government to consider the use of the NHIS in funding mental health services in Ghana as an avenue for mental health patients to benefit from the NHIS.
Dr Nsiah Asare stated, “If you ask me, I think that the only way out is if mental health services are also catered for by the National Health Insurance. It can be done. Anybody who walks into a psychiatric hospital either with health insurance or not should be registered. I don’t believe in any service which is paid for. Somebody has to pay for it. The only sustainable way anywhere in the world is through health insurance. So this is what we shall be advocating for and we need your support.” He also called on the media to be lead advocates against the stigmatization of mental health patients in the country.
On his part, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mental Health Authority, Dr. Akwasi Osei, appealed to the media to be more circumspect when reporting on suicide related cases. He expressed worry about how cases of suicide are sensationalized by some media practitioners in their reportage. According to a 2012 World Health Organization (WHO) report, almost one million lives are lost yearly due to suicide, which translates to 3000 suicide deaths every day.
The Mental Health Authority (MHA), an Agency of the Ministry of Health, Ghana, is calling for support to operate a toll free line. The Authority seeks to operate the number as a 24-hour toll free line that will be providing urgent and interventional mental health support for people contemplating suicide.