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Superstition still affecting medical treatment of mental health patients; psychiatry nurse says


A psychiatry nurse at the Zabzugu district hospital, Madam Elizabeth Fuseini Memuna has revealed that superstitions still remain a major challenge facing healthcare providers in combating psychiatry problems in the northern region.

According to Madam Memuna, in spite of efforts by the Ghana Health Service, the Mental Health Authority and NGOs in the mental health sector, many people still have the notion that mental problems were more of superstitious nature than medical conditions.

The attitude and behavior of relatives of mentally ill people, she observed, were hampering the efforts of healthcare providers in the region. The relatives she noted were not taking into consideration the symptoms of the patients.

“We found out that the common mental health problem among women (young ladies) is depression and among men it is suicide,” Madam Memuna said.

Madam Memuna who was the only psychiatry nurse in Yendi government hospital between 2004 and 2012 said the hospital has about a thousand mentally ill people, a figure that far outnumbers the number of mentally ill people at the regional hospital in Tamale.

She outlined the difficulties she encountered working with 456 communities in Yendi municipality for the period of eight years. Madam Memuna said she had to develop a strategy of writing to both big and small mosques and churches in Yendi about the issue, and she said helped her. She said she also met with traditional healers all in an effort to help the mental patients under her care.

Yendi township, she explained further, was divided into three mental health zones, Nayili Fong, Kumlan Fong and Balogu. They were to tackle the issue holistically.

With the assistance of Basic Needs Ghana and its international partners, mental patients who were healed, were given some skills training in carpentry, batik tie and dye. Others opted to engage in the livestock and shea butter trade to enable them buy drugs for their conditions, Madam Memuna said.

Madam Memuna who is now a nursing manager at Zabzugu hospital told Zaa News  superstitions still persist in the area especially among members of the Konkomba community who believe that their relatives conditions are the result of offending their gods.

The hospital advocacy on mental health issues led to the visit of the regional psychiatrist, Dr Mohammed Sori, which Madam Memuna said boosted their efforts and also increased public awareness about the issue.

Madam said in the Zabzugu hospital authorities started asking mothers at the out-patient department (OPD)whose babies are suffering from epilepsy and convolutions to owe up so that they could be helped.

According to her, the hospital has also liaised with the district national health insurance  manager to register children with epilepsy and convulsion free of charge.

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