A 42-year-old mental patient and mother of one, Lucy Agbavitor (not her real name) has decried the high cost of treating mental illness in the country.
She was disgusted that mental health care is so expensive in the country even though the law mandates it to be free. “I don’t understand why we should continue to bear the cost of our medications, we are supposed to enjoy free mental health care but the situation is rather the reverse”, Ms. Agbavitor said.
Ms Agbavitor who works at a day care center in Akatsi in the Volta Region, said she earns a paltry GHC80 a month (about $20), which she uses some to buy medication and takes care of herself and her daughter. “The job I do, the salary is not sufficient to cater for myself let alone buy medications”.
Asked how she’s being able to cope with treatment, she told this reporter that family members have been supportive, “my elder brother who’s a reverend minister sends me GHC50 (about $12) a month to augment my treatment”.
She added, “I go for treatment once a month and I can say the medications are expensive”.
She appealed on the government to make mental health care free since most patients are finding it extremely difficult to cope with the situation.
How it all started
Narrating her sad story, Ms. Agbavitor who is now recuperating very fast, said but for the kind help of family members, her situation could have degenerated.
“I did my West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) exams in 1997 hoping to pass to continue my education but I failed in some papers dashing my dreams and this led me to become depressed, and started talking and behaving abnormally,” she recalled.
According to Ms Agbavitor at the time the illness started, she was leaving with her father who was then a civil servant with the Ghana Post Service in Kumasi, the Ashanti Regional capital.
“When my family members detected my abnormality they send me to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital but because there was a renovation at the Psychiatric department, I was transferred to the Bumso Hospital”.
“I was well for a while but unfortunately the illness relapsed, so my relatives decided to send me down to the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, I stayed there for some time before they brought me home”, Ms. Agbavitor stated.
She admitted that even though conditions at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital was not the best, the treatment was good, praising the staff of their professional care.
Ms. Agbavitor also added that her family members played a very crucial role towards her treatment adding “my family members visited me occasionally; they brought me food and took good care of me”.
She recalled that after some time, she was released and asked to come to the facility every month for review.
Dealing with stigmatization
In the early days of her illness, Ms. Agbavitor recounted that, people who knew her were surprised about her behavior whiles others too mocked at her.
According to her she’s being able to cope with stigmatization and this has given her the confidence to go about her day to day activities.
She called on people who mock mental patients to desist from such acts since everyone is at risk. “I didn’t know I will develop mental illness but it happened, so I call on society to desist from stigmatizing mental patients,” she said.
Ms. Agbavitor also urged patients not to give up in life when something happens since it can deteriorate their conditions and make them depressed.
“They should rather be calm, find something to do and leave everything to God and their problems will be solved,” she advised.