Cape Coast, – Agencies responsible for the welfare and safety of Persons with Disability (PWDs) and Persons with Mental Health Conditions have been asked to lead the advocacy for change in the negative attitudes toward PWDs.
PsyKforum, a non-profit organisation promoting psychosocial and mental well-being to PDWs and Persons with Mental Health Conditions (PWMHCs), said those agencies must maximize efforts to secure a future where barriers of inclusion would be completely broken to ensure a stigma-free society.
It indicated that the worst fears of PWDs and PWMHCs were to live among people who discriminated against them as that lowered their self-esteem, diminished their human dignity and sense of belonging and created suicidal thoughts.
Mrs Vivian Ama Aubyn, a Board Member of PsyKforum, made the call during an engagement with stakeholders on the need to advocate for laws and bye-laws in favour of PWDs and PWMHCs.
The meeting formed part of the Social and Behavioural Change, Stigma Reduction and Disability Inclusion programme under the Ghana Somubi Dwumadzi Project.
The project is sponsored by the UKAID with Hope For Future Generation, an NGO, as its implementing partner.
Mr Christian Ackom, a Lecturer at the Department of Psychological Medicine under the University of Cape Coast School of Medical Sciences, applauded society’s ability to limit differential treatment as a step in the right direction.
He said it was the responsibility of all and sundry to ensure that the country became a stigma-free one for the greater good of all.
“So, if a criminal is supposed to be treated humanely, then how much more people who, by no fault of theirs, have been left disabled. They equally have the right to family life and to experience all other social activities,” he said.
Touching on Mental Health Conditions, Mr Ackom said a person could develop any type of mental health condition at any point in one’s life as long as one had emotions and thoughts.
He said attempting to commit suicide was one of the commonest ways victims tended to end their predicament, adding: “This should not be criminalised because no happy person would want to taste death.”
Mr Ackon said suicide must be decriminalised while urging the police and all other law enforcers to push harder for victims to seek proper medical care and attention.
The perception that PWMHCs were violent and posed danger to society was because their actions were a response to how society treated them, he said.
Nana Kwame Edu VI, Tufuhen of Oguaa Traditional Area, said almost everyone was guilty of stigmatisation but a change of mind was necessary to commence a new chapter where PWDs would feel included in every aspect of life.
“Indeed, we all should be ashamed of ourselves and our attitudes, let’s bow our heads in shame with our hearts yearning for a change, we cannot count how many people we have murdered, imprisoned and shamed by our actions,” he said.
Source: Ghana News Agency