4 April 2017
“Seeing mental health and substance misuse patients suffering, neglected by the community, families and other healthcare workers; motivated me to work with mental health. Working as a health Administrator and a Project Coordinator at a Tanzania National Mental Health Hospital, I found I could help these individuals so that they can be provided with an environment that will allow them to recover from their illnesses, reduce relapses and lead a normal life.”
Perpetua Mwambingu- Tanzania Link Project Coordinator
“In Ghana mental illness is often attributed to spiritual causes and people who suffer from mental illness do not get the help that they need. Stigma and discrimination is high and people who suffer from mental illness lose their dignity, respect and self-worth. My passion for awareness creation and advocacy and my belief that someday Ghana will appreciate the importance of mental health motivates me even during moments of burnout”
Randy Agbodo- Project Lead for Ghana – Zambia – NHS Highlands Partnership
The Story Remains the Same
According to the World Health Organization, for every four people, one will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder in their lifetime. The magnitude of mental health burden is not matched by the size and effectiveness of the response it demands. Currently, more than 33% of countries allocate less than 1% of their total health budget to mental health.
Sadly, in Tanzania and Ghana where Randy and I are working, the story remains the same, mental health services are underfunded, and most of the donor funded programs go to communicable diseases. There is inadequate human resource and insufficient supply of medications. Stigma and discrimination towards persons with mental disorders is still prominent and effective mental health prevention and promotion programs are woefully inadequate.
No Health without Mental Health
Depression is ranked first in the list of top ten leading causes of years lived with disability (YLDs). Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. At its worst depression can lead to suicide and close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.
This is why it is so vital that World Health Day this year is addressing depression, bringing it to the fore of global health discussions. It gives health managers and policy advisers the opportunity to appreciate that depression affects productivity and therefore prioritizing and investing heavily in mental health would, in the long run, culminate in populations with healthy outcomes, respect for human rights and stronger economies.
The Health Partnership Symposium ‘effect’
In order to make this a reality, we believe that collaboration and the sharing of approaches is key and at the recent Health Partnership Symposium, organized by THET, we found we were not alone in this thinking.
Our passion for working in mental health was further cemented at the event where a certain chemistry brought colleagues from Ghana, India, Kenya, Nepal, Scotland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia together to form the ‘Mental Health group’.
We all wanted to come together to tackle and develop our learning on different mental health issues. Ultimately we wanted LMIC’s to start collaborating and to share experiences which can strengthen the partnerships we work in. That’s when a luncheon ‘chat’ was called, then a dinner ‘talk’ happened and then we came to form a WhatsApp group, a way for us to easily reach out to each other.
The world is facing many challenges; political unrest, war, economic hardship, unemployment, etc., all are contributing factors to depression. This must be a wake-up call for the global community, the need to re-think, and re-act to this global crises, now is the time to re-set our priorities with regards to mental health and to act together through partnerships and shared learning. After all there is no health without mental health.