Madam Josephine is a teacher and single mother of 22 year old Serwaa, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth. Being the primary caregiver of a child with mental health condition (cerebral palsy), Madam Josephine belongs to a self-help group in the Greater Accra Region where she, with other caregivers provide support for each other.
Under the Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) and stigma reduction for mental health and disability inclusion (Ghana Participatory SBC) project, being implemented by Hope for Future Generations and The PsykForum Consortium, with funding from the UK Government, a caregivers’ training session was organized in December 2021. The objective of the session was to empower caregivers on the needs of people with disabilities and how to contribute to reducing the barriers they face at living a meaningful life. The objective of the session was premised on the fact that both people with disabilities including those with mental health conditions and their caregivers face stigma and discrimination in their everyday lives.
Stigma and discrimination is grave when caregivers are not properly orientated on the needs of people with disabilities including mental health conditions. There is also enormous pressure on caregivers as they may have other responsibilities apart from caring for people with disabilities. These pressures may lead to accumulated stress which may result in abuse and ill-treatment of people with disabilities, depression among caregivers and other medical related problems. Empowering caregivers on stress management was aimed at helping them cope better so that they are able to provide quality care for their loved ones. Other topics that were treated at the session included: Needs and rights of people with disabilities including people mental health conditions, Stigma and Discrimination, Mental Health and Wellbeing, Psychosocial Support and Referral services.
Madam Josephine was a participant at the caregivers training session in December 2021. At the session, participants were encouraged to take breaks in the care of their loved ones from time to time, arrange support for care so they are able to rejuvenate and subsequently be able to better provide continued quality care.
After the training session, Madam Josephine has been making significant changes in her life as a caregiver and that of her daughter to improve upon their lives. Her first change was taking time off her care routine and second was improving her psychosocial support for her daughter. She wrote ‘I took time off from “DJ” (my daughter who lives with cerebral Palsy). I went to Kumasi to visit my elder Sister and her family….I left Serwaa with her grandma and spent some few days touring Kumasi. The change of environment was awesome because I relaxed from the “pressures” of staying in Accra’.
Subsequently, Madam Josephine and her daughter were invited under the project for a photoshoot session which she was very pleased to do. Nearly living her life indoors, Serwaa had a refreshing moment during the field trip. Serwaa met new people and made new friends and she was very happy. Madam Josephine further resolved to be taking her daughter out more often as she realised that her daughter had fun during the road trip.
The confidence of Madam Josephine has improved as she now posts her daughter’s pictures on her social media (WhatsApp platform).