May 29, 2013

Why We Do What We Do: Angela Ofori-Atta

Angela Ofori-Atta, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at the University of Ghana Medical School, was the only African in her graduate school class at the University of British Columbia. During her studies, many discussions focused on North America and health challenges– piquing her interest in the field of mental health. Angela was encouraged when she found that, although expressed differently based on culture, the theories she was studying were applicable to her home country, Ghana. After reading “Behavior Therapy” by Wolpe, Angela became fascinated by the science of behavior and her focus began to shift to how the language of health transcended borders.

“I first heard of a global health conference at Yale through my husband, a Yale alumni and I was eager to be a part of our country’s delegation," explains Angela. "The GHLI Conference seemed like a great opportunity to share ideas and strategies on how to address Ghana’s health issues with colleagues at Yale and with other countries."

Angela’s work examines poverty’s impact on mental health. Although she has seen great strides in this area – including the passing of the mental health bill in 2012, Act 846 – she believes there is still much work to be done.  Mental health is often given the least priority in countries where contagious diseases are an issue.

In Ghana, although we are still without certain essential disciplines such as psychotherapists and occupational therapists, the mental health workforce now includes more individuals who are passionate about their work and focused on the patient. “Stigmatism around the field is changing and people are practicing more ethically,” said Angela. Collaboration between mental health workers and academia has aided in these positive shifts but lack of financial resources is a constant challenge.

When asked her advice for those looking to enter the field, Angela said, “Be prepared to believe in what you do.” Her belief and passion for the field of mental health has inspired others to face challenges and believe in the potential for progress.

Bridget Bash, GHLI Staff

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