GrowYourDream Foundation receives training from MindFreedom Ghana on how to address Covid-19’s impact on mental health

MindFreedom (MFGh) Ghana is a non-government organisation established in 2004 with the vision of improving the mental health and social lives of persons with psychosocial disabilities in Ghana as well promoting their human rights and dignity. MFGh currently seeks to foster and strengthen links with similar minded organisations both across Ghana and internationally to harmonise operations, learn from each other and explore diverse forms of cooperation, all with the goal of upscaling the assistance available to people with disabilities. One of the key objective of MFGh is to support and assist people with mental disorders in their treatment regiment and advocate for conditions – both in the communities and at psychiatric facilities – that would not infringe on their human rights and dignity.

MFGh invited organisations and experts interested in mental health matters to a workshop held in Jasikan (Oti Region) on 26 October, 2021. GYDF director Jacob Ahiave participated in the training and also used the opportunity to network with representatives from MFGh and the other workshop participants. In attendance were the Mental Health Nurses, the Oti Region Health Director, several District Directors as well as representatives from various District Assemblies from across the region.

The central topic discussed at the workshop was the impact of Covid-19 on mental health. There is significant evidence that the circumstances surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic have caused high levels of stress and tension, i.e., the inability of the body to cope with novel stressors. Results observed include negative impacts on both physical and mental well-being.

The workshop then moved to a discussion on how such stress can be managed. Proven methods include exercise, meditation, sufficient sleep or rest, a healthy balanced diet, and avoidance of alcohol.

In relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, there have also been signs of increasing numbers of people being affected by depression, a major mental health problem. It can be caused by states of emotional agitation, a clinical condition or another medical conditions. Typical symptoms of depression are: poor concentration, loss or increase in appetite, guilty feelings, loss of energy and loss of interest. While mild depression can often be managed by appropriate behaviour such as frequent exercise, a serious depression usually means that medical assistance should be sought.

The discussion finally turned to substance use disorder. Three major stages of substance use or addiction can be distinguished: loss of control, compulsion to use, and craving continued use. Symptoms include hallucinating, delusion, abnormal speech, and abnormal behaviour. Tackling substance use disorders requires a mix of effective education, effective screening – which means a public health approach is needed at all levels.

Grow Your Dream Foundation meets with UK expert on gender equality and mental health

Lesley Hill, an art therapist and mental health practitioner linked to UK-based NHS Scotland’s Highland /Ghana Health Partnership and Multi Agency International Training and Support (MAITS) visited the Grow Your Dream Foundation in October 2021 to see how best GYDF might add a mental health focus to their community work.

GYDF Director Jacob Ahiave Sedemor facilitated the trip along with GYDF colleague Linus Gaba. They orientated Ms Hill to the GYDF gender and health work and community contexts. They facilitated a visit to Kordiable, an ‘off the beaten track’ community up the mountain in the Adaklu District. This visit served as an initial introduction of the concept of mental health within GYDF work for the community and an opportunity for Ms Hill to deliver a taster art session to show how using art can enable communication and discussion within the community groups.  The 45 min walk along a rocky path and under the shade of the trees led to into the community itself, nestling below a steep rockface. The chiefs and community provided their customary welcome with singing and drumming, speeches and gifts. The topic of mental health was briefly introduced by Jacob Ahiava and Linus Gaba followed by the art exercise. This enabled discussions about good and bad experiences in couple relationships, a roof blowing off – then being repaired, a sick child who got better, having no money then making money and being able to buy food.  Thus using art in this way proved to be a useful tool to explore difficulties in life and help to talk about them.

A visit to the Hasu Polyclinic to meet community care and mental health personnel, share GYDF intention to develop mental health within their remit, and flag up the availability of community health for disabilities training available through MAITS, rounded off the visit.

Following the visit, Ms Hill linked the GYDF team to Mr Dan Taylor, Director of Mindfreedom Ghana, based in Accra. Jacob Ahiave was quick to take up the opportunity of joining a Mindfreedom training event in Jasikan in the north of Volta region which focused on the impacts of Covid 19 on mental health.