It is estimated that of the 21.6 million people living in Ghana, 650,000 are suffering from a severe mental disorder and a further 2,166, 000 are suffering from a moderate to mild mental disorder. The treatment gap is 98% of the total population expected to have a mental disorder.
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 small proportion of the population), with relatively less government provision and funding for general hospital and primary health care based services. The few community based services being provided are private.
Great efforts are being made to change the model of service provision to one which emphasizes care in the community. However, Ghana's 1972 mental health decree strongly emphasized institutional care to the detriment of providing mental health care in primary health care settings, contradictory to both national and international policy directives. Furthermore, procedures for involuntary admission in the 1972 law did not sufficiently protect people against unnecessary admission. Indeed, serious mistreatments of people with mental disorders - some have been involuntarily locked away in institutions for decades – have persisted under this legislation.
Ghana requested the support of WHO in developing a new mental health law to promote best practice in treatment and care and to protect the human rights of people with mental disorders.
Through a series of training workshops, broad consultations with key national stakeholders, and ongoing critical analyses and reviews of the different drafts of the new law using WHO materials and tools, Ghana has developed a comprehensive Mental Health Bill which protects the rights of people with mental disorders and promotes mental health care in the community in accordance with international human rights standards.
WHO is helping Ghana to prepare for the implementation of the new legislation, and has provided guidance on the elaboration of a detailed action plan and regulations for putting the provisions of the law into effect.
Ghana's Mental Health Bill has gained the support of doctors, nurses and traditional healers and can serve as a model for other African countries wishing to develop progressive mental health laws that respect international human rights standards.
Ghana Mental Health Decree, 1972.
Ghana's new draft Mental Health Bill (to be adopted).
Previous mental health policies, adopted but not implemented: Substance Abuse Policy (formulated 1990); Mental Health Policy and Programmes (1994 & 2000 revision).
MOH Ghana, 2007. Five-year Programme of Work for Mental Health 2007-2011 (in preparation)
Links to NGOs