Clubhouse Ghana, a non-profit Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), has disclosed its plans to establish a community-oriented rehabilitation center to help revamp and re-integrate mental healthcare delivery into the fabric of society.
The center, when completed next year, will open its doors to recovered patients / clients; and provide them with skills in carpentry, farming, cooking, bartending, masonry, plumbing, as well as other trades etc. (if necessary); in order for them to be self-sufficient when they recover from a mental condition in any local psychiatric hospital.
The recovered individuals will gain an inner sense of self-pride, resilience and tenacity to face life’s challenges head on even when their families or communities forsake them due to the stigma attached to mental health and the shrouded influence in its wake.
Commenting on the project, Founder of Clubhouse Ghana, Mona Lisa “ML” Brookshire née Blay-Miezah, explained that the general objective will be to support the government’s effort to integrate mental health into the general healthcare delivery system across the country.
She noted that mental health is indeed critical, because it impacts the thoughts, behaviours and emotions of individuals; and as such, has a direct impact on one’s actions and inactions as well as one’s sense of judgement and self-worth.
Additionally, she further stated that mental health also has socio-economic implications for the patients, their families and the nation as a whole, since it contributes significantly to productivity and the human resource base of any country in Africa or the world at large.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 13 percent of Ghanaians are mentally challenged.
However, Ms. Blay-Miezah bemoaned the fact that the issue has not really been given the needed attention over the years due to several factors such as misconceptions, the fear of stigmatisation, lack of training, poor funding mechanisms, ignorance, spiritual connotations, indifference, negligence, among others.
The main services Clubhouse Ghana will provide
With great optimism and enthusiasm for the celebration of life and stability, mentally challenged individuals that roam naked and hungry and unkempt will be finally taken off the streets and taken care of indefinitely.
For those that are functional, Ms. Blay-Miezah said they would attain their free Basic Senior High School (SHS) education through the involvement of the Ministry of Education.
By virtue of the Rehabilitation Center’s objectives, the functional “clients” (no longer referred to as “patients”); will also learn a trade as quickly as possible and find work and accommodation with assistance from their assigned social workers.
“Sadly, those that are assessed to be non-functional or completely dysfunctional by the Head Psychiatrists will be committed for life into the institution and taken care of till they expire one day,” she indicated.
All these services will be completely free of charge, with the medical services rolled into a specific healthcare insurance plan. Duly, from the provisions of international funding; no challenged client will ever be turned away or rejected.
On the flip side of less extreme scenarios, albeit still disturbing, lots of professionals in Ghana have also lost their places at work and are now frustrated and in hiding because of shame and embarrassment due to several relapses and lack of medication.
Once a person has “gone mad before” in local Ghanaian parlance, the stigma prevents them oftentimes from ever returning to school or work or even achieving future goals locally. Teachers, nurses, even doctors, engineers, accountants, business owners etc. are all not exempt or excluded from the backlash, stigmatisation and spiritual interpretations of one’s medication and relapse history.
The situation in Ghana
In Ghana, it is a common phenomenon to see mentally ‘handicapped’ people loitering both day and night without proper clothing, food and medication. Mental Health patients are oftentimes unable to access the needed social or medical support.
Out of desperation coupled with Africa’s unnerving focus on superstition, most mentally challenged individuals are rather sent to spiritual leaders for exorcism and healing.
The aforementioned have devalued the dignity, worth and the rights of the patients living with a mental health condition, an experience, Ms. Blay-Miezah said should not be encouraged in the 21st century in an otherwise advanced country like mother Ghana.
“The meagre budgetary allocations have not been able to support adequate mental health and Rehabilitation facilities and, as such, little has been achieved over the years,” she stated.
Section 80, of Mental Health Act, 2012 (Act 846) talks about the establishment of a Mental Health Fund which will, among other things, support the rehabilitation, skills training and empowerment of mental health patients. However, change and improvement have both eluded the lonesome individuals that walk the streets naked by day!
“It is obvious that no society can function without a robust mental health advocacy system. Neglecting a country’s mental health system amounts to neglecting the country’s overall human capital which will eventually impact even more negatively on the country’s economy.
There is the ardent need for society to see one’s mental health as a critical aspect of human and interpersonal development, hence, Clubhouse Ghana will initiate immediate actions to resolve the overarching challenges in order to promote efficiency and an all-inclusive society that embraces diversity and inclusion”, she said.
The Ministry of Health as well as the Ministry of Education will work hand in hand to propel the ML4Lyfe Foundation, as well as its non-profit NGO-arm, to succeed at all cost.
Clubhouse Ghana is admirably the first-ever rehabilitation center to be established in the entire West-African region. There are only two other Clubhouse-franchised rehabilitation centers in Uganda and South Africa. Hence, Ghana will hold the mantle as the first trailblazing country to be granted funding, US resources and World Mental Health Federation support from Clubhouse International in Manhattan, New York, to establish a Center that will operate primarily with the NGO’s business model as a whole.
Awareness and erudition
Clubhouse Ghana will schedule tours for CEOs to visit the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Pantang and Ankaful to take an introspective look at the present heart-tugging unfortunate living conditions of individuals at the facilities.
After the tour’s end for over 400 Corporate CEOs of Ghana and beyond, the Ghana CEO Summit will grant Ms. Blay-Miezah an opportune moment to share a 20-minute reel and presentation at the next Summit in May 2022.
Her impassioned plea at the Summit will focus more on educative awareness, as opposed to fundraising because she believes that the latter will follow as soon as the powers that be understand mental health and truly get it.
As of August 2021, the ML4Lyfe Foundation has entered a Partnership with Rotary Club of Accra.