The Psychiatry Unit of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital has established a caregiver support group for children with mental health conditions.

The support group will provide both physical and emotional assistance to parents of children with special needs. 

According to the World Health Organization, sixteen percent of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10-19 years is attributable to mental health conditions.

WHO reports indicate that half of all mental health conditions begin at age 14 with most cases going undetected and untreated.

Head of the Psychiatry Unit of KATH, Dr. Ruth Owusu-Antwi, said the establishment of the support group would help educate parents on ways to handle these children to reduce their burden.

“We realized that the parents who bring these children are really burdened. They are concerned about schooling, providing care for these children, and stigmatization. Some parents have been tempted to throw these children away and abandon them.

“So we thought of bringing together a support group for all these caregivers, so that they can encourage and learn together. And, also teach them how to support these children outside of the clinic.

“These parents have to be with the children most of the time, to add on to the help we give to these children. It will help these children to recover and become useful in the society,” she said.

Available data indicate that middle and low-income countries account for an estimated 95% of children with special needs globally.

The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions could extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health.

This may limit opportunities for such persons to lead fulfilling lives as adults.

Behavioural therapist at KATH, Dorcas Owusu, admonished caregivers to be supportive of each other to promote the psychological health of their wards.

“Sometimes parents have higher expectations for their children, especially when they expect their children to do specific things at a certain age. When the expectation is too high, you become disappointed. 

“So, I want to admonish parents to limit their expectations. Compare your wards to themselves and not to others. If your child cannot identify the brush today, they will, someday. So, you have to appreciate them when they do.

“Also, I’m admonishing all fathers to support their wives when they have children with special needs. Some parents go through a lot of psychological stress. It’s neither of the parent’s fault.  

“So when you come together and help build the psychological health together, you help the child attain independence,” she said.

Available research indicates that mental illness poses an enormous economic burden on individuals and the country, largely.

The average monthly household cost of mental healthcare is estimated to be US$60.24.

The representative of the caregivers, Nana Yaw Asante, appealed to the government to help subsidize the cost of medical services rendered at psychiatry units.

“As a parent representative in this group, I am appealing to government to subsidize the cost of some services provided by the psychiatry unit, especially charges for review.

“This will help reduce the burden parents have to bear,” he said.  

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