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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).

Hope for Future Generations (HFFG) and The PsyKForum have, in consortium, secured a project with the Ghana Somubi Dwumadie to provide psychosocial support for health workers and Persons with Mental Disability during this COVID-19 period. The Grantor of the project is Options Consultancy services.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) was first reported by the World Health Organization late December, 2019, and since then thousands and even millions of people have been infected, with high deaths recorded in many countries. Nations put in a lot of emergency measures to curtail the spread of the disease including risk communication, surveillance, contact tracing and providing targeted medical services. Some nations had to lock down to avoid further infections and to control the disease. With many unknown facts about transmission, except through droplets, many efforts focused on social and physical distancing.

Ghana recorded its first two cases of coronavirus on the 12th of March, 2020, and by 15th December, 2020, Ghana had recorded 53,270 cases. The results of a survey done in selected suburbs in Accra showed that many people do not wear face/nose masks correctly in public. With the way COVID-19 spreads, Government and the people of Ghana need to strengthen response and observe all the protocols needed to keep infections low or eradicate it.

Why the Focus on Persons with Disability and Health Workers?

People with Disabilities (PWDs) can be termed as vulnerable and are usually not able to access health information with the ease that others do. Some PWDs have mobility problems while others have hearing or visual impairments, hence are not able to take advantage of the availability of information with the ease that others do. Persons with Mental Disability are often not targeted for medical interventions to enable them access information and medical services with ease. COVID-19 produces its own stress factors which can worsen already existing mental stress and hence there is the need to focus on providing services to mitigate this effect.

Health workers are front liners for the fight against COVID-19. They support surveillance activities and provide medical care in various capacities at the various designated hospitals in the country. The fear of COVID-19, the anxiety of providing care for a COVID-19 patient and increased work load, have the possibility of triggering mental health issues.

The main objectives of the project are:

  • To establish an accessible and friendly psychosocial support for 500 health workers and their families on COVID-19 related work stress in the Greater Accra and Western regions.
  • To improve access to health care of people with disability in the greater Accra and Western regions in this COVID-19 era through sensitization of their needs among 500 health workers.
  • To reduce stigma and discrimination at health facilities towards people with COVID-19 in the Greater Accra and Western regions including people living with disability.

The project districts/sub districts include Klottey Korle, Ga East, Ayawaso West, and Ledzorkuku-Krowor in the Greater Accra Region; Sekondi-Takoradi and Ellembelle in the Western Region.

The selected hospitals are Greater Accra Regional Hospital, Police Hospital, University of Ghana Medical Centre, LEKMA Hospital and Ga East Municipal Hospital, all in the Greater Accra Region; and Effia Nkwanta Government Hospital and St Martins De Pores Hospital in the Western Region.

Hope for Future Generations is happy to partner with The PsyKForum and Ghana Somubi Dwumadie in delivering this needed intervention. It is hoped that through the Ghana Somubi Dwumadie support, help will go to helpers and Persons with Mental Disability will be supported to seek medical care and information.