Establish a Mental Health Review Tribunal – HRW

Iddi Yire, GNA

Accra, Nov 08, GNA –
Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international non-governmental organisation, has
urged Ghana to establish a Mental Health Review Tribunal, a specialised
quasi-judicial body to be constituted under the Mental Health Act.

Such a tribunal will
have a wide range of powers that would enable it to conduct mental health
inquiries, make and review orders, and to hear some appeals, about the
treatment and care of people with a mental illness.

Madam Shantha Rau
Barriga, Director for Disability Rights, HRW, in an interview with the Ghana
News Agency in Accra, appealed to government to enforce the ban on chaining or
shackling and other forms of inhumane and degrading treatment through effective
monitoring of psychiatric facilities and prayer camps.

She said putting in
place a Mental Health Review Tribunal and visiting committees, would go a long
way to promote effective monitoring of psychiatric health facilities and prayer
camps in the country.

She said HRW’s
visits to some psychiatric health facilities and prayer camps in the country
revealeded that people with mental health conditions were still being abused in
so many ways.

She said that visits
by HRW to six prayer camps in Ghana within this week revealed that chaining of
the mental patients was still going on in two of the facilities.

The regional
distribution of the six prayer camps visited by HRW within the week included
four in Central and one each in Greater Accra and Eastern Regions.

Madam Barriga noted
that at one of the prayer camps she saw more than 16 people with psycho-social
disability in shackles.

She said some prayer
camps were abiding by the law banning chaining while others were clearly
violating it.

She therefore,
appealed to the Mental Health Authority and the Ministry of Health to go to the
two prayer camps and set the people free or move them to a psychiatric facility
for treatment.

She said as part of
efforts to stop shackling in prayer camps, there was the need for education,
sensitisation and training programmes for the management and staff of such
facilities on how to handle mental patients.

She also urged donor
communities to invest in mental health service delivery.

She appealed to
government to invest in community mental health services to support people with
psychosocial disabilities on the basis of their free and informed consent, as well
as adequate support for housing, independent living and job training.

She also mentioned
the adoption of legislative instrument and setting up a levy to fund mental
health services as a matter of urgency

She said despite
some progress made by Ghana in enforcing a ban on shackling since 2017, some
people with real or perceived mental health conditions remain chained or
confined in prayer camps in the country.

“Metal health
is part of the human condition, one in four people according to the World
Health Organisation may experience some forms of mental health condition in
their lifetime. So it is part of our human diversity and we should accept them
as equal human beings,” Madam Barriga said.

HRW is an
international non-governmental organisation, with its headquarters in New York
City, and conducts research and advocacy on human rights.


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