Perceptions about mental disorders and help seeking behaviour of Akwatia residents, Ghana.

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November, 2015
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One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives and one in every four families have at least one member suffering from a mental or behavioural disorder. Mental disorders have an enormous burden on economies, families and individuals. Despite the prevalence and burden of mental disorders, many people suffering from these disorders do not receive professional treatment. In Ghana the treatment gap is 98%. This study is a cross sectional survey which seeks to assess the perceptions of non-carers and carers of the mentally ill in Akwatia about mental disorders as well as the perceptions of general practitioners about mental healthcare in the two main hospitals in Akwatia. A total of 351 non-carers, 75 carers and 14 general practitioners working in the two hospitals in the town responded to the survey. Information was obtained from both carers and non-carers through questionnaires. General practitioners provided information through self-administered questionnaires. Respondents generally believed that mental disorders referred to an abnormal change in the behaviour of an individual. They had knowledge about attention drawing signs of mental disorders. A small percentage of respondents had some misconceptions about mental disorders. The most common perceived cause of mental disorders was abuse of substances this was followed by spiritual causes. Both carers and non-carers frequently stated smoking of narcotics as a risk factor for the development of mental disorders. This was expressed as 26.7% and 30.9% of all responses for risk factors by carers and non-carers respectively. Carers of the mentally ill sought help for the mentally ill due to one or more of the following reasons: when symptoms were difficult to handle; when their livelihoods had been negatively affected; fear of disgrace and fear of the person becoming a liability. Sixty percent (60%) of non-carers generally said they would prefer to seek help from the hospital should they become mentally ill. Carers of the mentally ill, sought help from other sources for their mentally ill relatives. 40.1% of carers sought help from prayer camps. About two thirds of respondents do not think that mental illness is a major health problem in Akwatia. Results show that people living in Akwatia need to be educated about mental disorders to address limitations and misconceptions in their knowledge about disorders and also to improve on help seeking behaviour. General practitioners also need to enhance their mental healthcare knowledge.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Clinical and Social Pharmacy, College of Health Sciences in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of MSc Clinical Pharmacy,