Schizophrenia, a mental health disorder, is on the rise in Ghana, with 8,446 people presenting with the condition as of the end of March this year .
From 19,856 persons who presented for help with the condition in 2020, the cases increased to 20,755 in 2021 and 24,790 in 2022.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterised by persistent psychotic symptoms such as auditory and/or visual hallucinations, delusional thinking, dissociation from reality and disorganised thoughts and behaviour.
It usually begins to manifest when the patients are in their early 20s, although, in rare cases, symptoms can show in early childhood.
This disorder affects about 24 million people worldwide.
The Board Chairman of the Mental Health Authority, Estelle Appiah, who disclosed this at a news conference to mark World Schizophrenia Day on Wednesday, said the figures were records from the District Health Information Management Systems of the Ghana Health Service.
World Schizophrenia Awareness Day is commemorated every May 24.
It is a day dedicated to raising awareness of the mental illness that affects over 20 million people worldwide.
It is highly stigmatised since it is not talked about and lacks accurate representation in the media.
World Schizophrenia Awareness Day was instituted to fight against stigma and to make it easier for people to seek different resources to get help.
It lifts the lid on the challenges that thousands of people with schizophrenia — from all over the world — have to contend with every day of their lives.
The theme for the celebration is: “Celebrating the power of community kindness”.
“The numbers we see speak for themselves, and potentially present a health and security risk for all of us,” she noted.
Quoting current research, Ms Appiah said a variety of factors influenced a person’s manifestation of symptoms of schizophrenia, pointing out that biological and environmental factors were notable, with life’s stresses playing a substantial role in the emergence of symptoms.
“Despite the fact that there is no cure for schizophrenia, people with the condition have better outcomes when they receive comprehensive management strategies that include medication, psychotherapy, occupational therapy, among others,” she said.
On efforts being undertaking by the MHA to manage the condition, she said it included the creation of policies through to their execution, adding that the authority had been working to raise public awareness of schizophrenia and other mental health issues while also striving for further improvements in accessibility to care.
Touching on the rights of persons living with mental illness, she reiterated that the ban on chaining and shackling of persons with mental illness, which had been in place since 2019, was still in force.
She urged the public, development partners, caregivers, community organisations and other relevant parties to collaborate in order to remove obstacles and to broaden support for those living with the condition.
That, she said, included increasing funding for mental health research and creating more inclusive communities that would support and empower individuals living with the condition.
“We encourage everyone to take a moment to learn more about schizophrenia. Join us in breaking down barriers and creating a world where everyone has access to the care and support they need to live healthy and productive lives,” she said.
The Technical Director of the MHA, Dr Nana Yaa Adobea Brown, said the theme for the celebration emphasised the importance of compassion, understanding and support within the community for individuals living with schizophrenia.
“Schizophrenia demands our attention, empathy and understanding.
The MHA believes that by working together, we can dismantle stigmas surrounding mental health conditions and create an environment where individuals living with schizophrenia can thrive.
Our collective efforts are crucial in promoting awareness, improving access to mental health services and ensuring that those affected receive the care and support they deserve,” she said.
The Chief Executive Officer of the MHA, Professor Pinaman Appau, stressed the need for all to remain vigilant in addressing the existing challenges that impeded progress in schizophrenia management, which included inadequate funding, brain drain of mental health professionals, persistent stigma, discrimination and the violation of human rights, including chaining and shackling.
“I urge you to join hands with us in celebrating the power of community kindness.
Through community initiatives, educational campaigns and collaborative partnerships, we can build a caring society that provides equitable access to mental health care, employment opportunities and social support networks,” she said.