August 6, 2013

Updates from Ghana

Perri Kasen, 2013 GHLI Fellow

As my stay in Ghana continues, I can see how recent political and financial obstacles are impeding progress on operationalizing the 2012 Mental Health Bill. An ongoing Supreme Court case examining the legitimacy of President John Dramani Mahama’s administration continues to capture national attention. The trial is broadcast live on television, and it seems like everyone in Ghana is watching and engaging in political discussions about Ghana’s future as it relates to the court’s case and ruling. Though entirely fascinating for the political scientist nerd in me, the Supreme Court case has created huge roadblocks in implementing the Mental Health Bill, as many action items require Presidential approval.

While the larger policy has not been enacted, there are numerous projects operating on a smaller scale that give us reason to celebrate. By the end of the summer, the Ghana Health Service will integrate mental health indicators into their comprehensive health information system. This data will be utilized to gain a better understanding of the burden of mental disorders across Ghana, and to provide evidence to inform mental health policy decisions at the national, regional, and district levels.

After conducting a needs assessment the Psych Corps program, I identified numerous ways in which the program can be improved to ensure the greatest impact in local communities. Through speaking with current Psych Corps personnel, I gained a better grasp the immense challenges of delivering mental health care in communities where myths about “witchcraft,” harmful traditional healing practices, and stigma about seeing mental health care are woven deeply into the cultural fabric.

I am overwhelmed by the kind and gracious nature of the Ghanaian people. I’ve discovered a seamstress lives just across the street from my apartment and will be returning to New Haven with eight authentic Ghanaian dresses (!). With less than two weeks left in this vibrant country, I find myself already missing the delicious mangoes and the fantastic dancing.

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