Lois (not her real name), a young lady, wrote a letter to her psychologist after a six-month therapy period.
The letter read: “I wasn’t sure what God was doing in my life but having gone through the tribulations in life, I felt God was leading me through something.
“I just needed a professional help. In all, I have learnt, I have been informed, and empowered. The cost of therapy is cheaper compared to the results.”
Lois was referred for a psychotherapy in 2021 when her close relations realised changes in her behaviour.
She was then at the University where financial and relationship challenges nearly pushed her to withdraw from school.
After six months of successfully undergoing the therapy sessions, Lois returned to school, graduated, finished with National Service, and ready to face the job world.
Heartbreaks resulting from broken love relationships nicknamed “breakfast”, coupled with financial and occupational stress among others, affect the mental health of many, leading to negative thoughts including suicide.
Psychological stresses, which lead people into various mental health disorders, are not limited to age. The case of Paa Kojo, a 70-year-old man, who sought psychotherapy, is a testament to the fact that psychological issues cut across all ages.
Paa Kojo, also, after his final therapy session to correct bipolar disorder, said to the psychologist, “I am glad I did this even after retirement. If I had received this help years ago, I would have been more fulfilled.”
Psychotherapy, a way of treating mental health illnesses through dialogue and psychological activities, has been underrated despite the effects of mental health disorders.
Data by the Mental Health Authority indicate that 16,000 Ghanaians live with severe psychological stress.
The World Health Organisation also estimates 3.1 million Ghanaians are living with a mental health disorder or the other.
According to the Mental Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), 471 people died by suicide within the first and second quarters of 2021.
Narrowing the statistics to the Northern Region, the 2021 Annual Report of the Northern Regional Directorate had it that 197 deaths resulted from mental health illnesses.
Meanwhile, the 2021 annual reports of the Psychiatric Unit of the Tamale Teaching Hospital recorded 277 new registrants of various mental health disorders, some of which were stress-related disorders resulting from alcohol and psychoactive substance abuse, depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia.
These data indicated the prevalence of mental health defects calling for the need for individuals to seek mental health help.
Mr. Peter Amadu Mintir, a Psychologist and Executive Director of the Total Life Enhancement Center (TOLEC), in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, said considering the outcome of psychotherapy, it was not expensive, adding that “no amount of money could pay for happiness and emotional stability.”
He said many people doubted the potency of therapies due to their simplicity but got amazed at results when they gave it a try.
He noted that there were no quick fixes for psychological issues rather therapies required patience, consistency and adherence to rules adding one could undergo as many as 13 sessions with each lasting an hour or more depending on the disorder involved.
Cost of psychotherapy
Mr Mintir mentioned that psychotherapy in the Northern Region ranged from GH¢100 to GH¢150 per session adding prices were a little higher in other regions.
He said: “I will always liken psychological services to the Bible story of Prophet Elisha and the Syrian Army commander where the commander came looking for a miracle and all he was told to do was to have a simple bath. Psychotherapy is simple and cheap to attain stability, well-being, and productivity.”
Mr Mintir said Psychologists use approaches such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to psych clients with the belief that everything psychology began with thinking, Acceptance, and Commitment Therapy, which had to do with the background study of clients, which would prepare them to accept therapy proposals.
Other therapy approaches mentioned by the psychologist were logotherapy, which implied life having a meaning, usually applied on individuals, who were more spiritually inclined, as well as the western perspectives therapy and mindfulness, based on a client’s history.
Who can seek psychotherapy
Mr Mintir said: “Anybody can seek psychological help. There is no need to wait for symptoms of mental health disorders. Go for psychotherapy to know your personality, how to understand yourself and how to manage anger.”
Mr Mintir said people who worried excessively about unrealised goals and purpose in life, people who have sleep challenges, those, who do not get the right level of energy, feel lonely, disconnected, and isolated needed to seek psychological assistance.
He noted that individuals who experience easy fatigue, body aches and pains where doctors diagnose no health challenge, need mental health professionals.
“From the perspective of bio-psychosocial module of health delivery, if doctors find no biological challenge, you need help in a different direction. Some people just need psychotherapy and counselling services. Not everyone must swallow pills,” Mr Mintir said.
He advised students should take some time off academic work, and speak to school psychologists and counselors to release stress.
Also, the citizenry should access the services of psychologists at least twice a year for general health principles.
The mental health of citizens is relevant to attaining economic growth. That is why advocacy about the subject should be given attention.
There is the need for counsellors and psychologists at all senior high schools and tertiary institutions in the country to make psychotherapy services easily accessible to students.
The mental health department of the GHS should advocate for the department at all healthcare centers to make psychotherapy accessible to everyone including the deprived areas.
Mental health illnesses are said to rob Ghana of seven per cent Gross Domestic Product. This is a reason to treat mental health as a national, health and economic issue.
The Government should re-strategize actions towards the topic.
The Mental Health Authority should propose feasible mental health policies and ensure their implementation.
The Government should direct resources into training more psychologists and mental health professionals to cover up for staff inadequacy in the sector.