Mental health charity heads to Ghana to support patient programme

Teachers, prison staff and healthcare professionals in Ghana are to be educated on how high-quality physical healthcare can significantly help patients who suffer from serious mental illnesses.

The training is to be provided by Northampton charity St Andrew’s Healthcare in a bid to empower and enrich people’s lives in the African country.


Martin O’Dowd, Head of Physical Health from the psychiatric hospital on Billing Road is travelling to the African country in October to help promote and educate the link between physical and mental healthcare.

He will be carrying out the work to promote the psychiatric hospital’s charitable purpose while helping to support the Besstel Foundation, an organisation that aims to enhance awareness of mental illness in Ghana and other parts of Africa.

St Andrew’s Healthcare has also donated four cages of clinical equipment, such as examination couches, thermometers, blood pressure machines and pulse oximeters.

Martin said: “I am thrilled and honoured to have been asked to take part in this important initiative. Providing a high standard of physical healthcare is an important part of our patients’ treatment plans at St Andrew’s Healthcare as the benefits directly address the increased mortality gap faced by many.

“I’m passionate about addressing the health inequalities faced by people with mental illness, cognitive impairment and learning disabilities as they are a very vulnerable group and have such a small voice in society. To be able to extend this work to a country like Ghana, that is trying to give a platform to mental healthcare even when they face such difficulties in providing more basic care to their population, seems like a great thing to be part of.”

Martin’s role is part of an annual project that the Besstel Foundation rolls out, which oversees mental health professionals from the UK travel to Ghana to share their expertise there.

The consultants deliver a programme of teaching, learning and professional development to support staff in mental health institutions.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 13 per cent of the 30m people in Ghana suffer from a mental disorder. Of which, three per cent have a severe mental disorder and the other 10 per cent have a moderate to mild mental disorder.

St Andrew’s Healthcare’s CEO Dr Vivienne McVey, said: “As a charity, we are always looking ways to help, enrich and improve people’s lives by promoting wellbeing, giving hope and enabling recovery. We’re excited and inspired by this opportunity and we hope Martin’s work will encourage and empower the Ghanaian citizens to make meaningful change.

“During its period of sustained growth, Ghana has made significant strides in improving conditions for its people, but like many other places, mental health education is not a priority. We want to change that, and hope that Martin’s training sessions will form part of some long-term solutions which will help tackle the increasing burden of mental health.”

CEO of the Besstel Foundation, Stella Agyeman, said: “Mental health is seldom discussed in Ghanaian culture because it makes people uncomfortable. There is widespread stigma, discrimination and a basic lack of understanding, which is why the work we carry out is so vital.

“We would like to thank St Andrew’s Healthcare and Martin for the support and resources they have pledged and we’re thrilled that we’re able to further support the people of Ghana with physical healthcare training.”

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