Anxiety over the outbreak of COVID-19 – the fear of catching the virus combined with depression caused by the collapse of businesses, has led to an upsurge of mental illness in Kumasi, Ghana’s second-largest city.
The Psychiatry Unit of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), a specialist mental facility for the middle belt and northern sectors, has been seeing more mental cases in the aftermath of the lifting of the partial lockdown, imposed in Greater Kumasi, and other parts of the country, by the government to contain and stop the spread of the virus.
Dr. Ruth Owusu-Antwi, Head of the Unit, told journalists that daily reported cases had shot up from between 12 and 15 to 20 and 25.
Follow up cases had also climbed to about 120 from the pre-lockdown figures of which ranged between 80 and 100 cases.
The Unit, established in 1981, has not seen any expansion over the years, and the continued increase in admissions and Out-Patients Department (OPD) cases is putting intense pressure on it.
It has been seeing about 15,000 patients, every year, but has space for only 11 beds, something that is making it difficult to deliver quality care.
Dr. Owusu-Antwi said the inadequate space was forcing doctors and nurses to sit in the corridors to provide services to patients, adding that, this was bad for patient-doctor confidentiality.
Doctors are often compelled to discharge patients, earlier than they should – before their full recovery.
She made reference to a recent study conducted at the Accra, Pantang and KATH Psychiatry, which showed that the latter “has the highest relapse rate” and said this was attributable to the situation, where patients are made to go home when they are not fully recovered.
She, therefore, appealed to the government, individuals and organizations to support the facility to complete an expansion project, it had started.
Dr. Owusu-Antwi gave the other causes of psychiatric problems as post-partum psychosis, depression, anxiety disorder and substance dependency disorders.
She underlined that the unswerving determination of the Unit to continue to provide quality professional psychiatric services to improve the mental health of the people despite the constraints.
She asked that more clinical psychologists were employed by the government to assist in handling the rising cases of mental illness.