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“Eschew the use of negative words in tagging persons with mental illnesses” – Prof. Akwasi Osei

A Two-day training on mental health reporting has been held in Tamale for media practitioners by the Mental Health Authority of Ghana. 

The training brought together the electronic and print media to dialogue on the way forward to promote advocacy on mental health issues in reports and discussions across the various media channels.

Facilitators did a wide range of presentations on the need for a paradigm shift on the use of some negative stereotypes and words in reporting and discussing issues on mental health in the media.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Mental Health Authority, Professor Akwasi Osei implored media practitioners to eschew the use of negative words in tagging persons with mental illnesses adding that mental health is the same as any other health condition which must not be singled out to stand alone.

He said mental illness can be managed and taken care of just like other ailments and that if not properly managed, it can rather lead to people resorting to suicide.

CEO of the Ghana Mental Health Authority, Professor Akwasi Osei speaking at the training for journalists

Professor Akwasi Osei urged participants to desist from using “commit” to connote suicide as if it was a crime.

“Don’t criminalize suicide by calling it committed suicide. So don’t say somebody has committed suicide but somebody has taken his life through suicide. And don’t also, we should not vividly describe the method the person used to take his life otherwise you are encouraging others to follow suit and that is called copycat suicide.” Dr. Akwasi said.

Professor Osei further added that the Mental Health Authority will try to push harder this year for the de-criminalization of suicide in Ghana’s criminal code and called for a positive change in the attitude of media practitioners in discussing issues of mental health and suicide.

“I think we have gone far, initially the members of parliament were not in favor at all. Indeed the doctors there themselves said no, no, no…how can you de-criminalize it? It means you are encouraging people to take their lives. But now they have appreciated that, no, we are not encouraging them but we are providing the avenue by which they can come out openly and say I have this problem. So, yes, preparations are ongoing and we are trusting that within this year 2022 the relevant portions of the criminal code will be repealed.” Dr. Akwasi added.

For her part, a deputy chief executive officer at the Ghana Mental Health Authority, Dr. Caroline Amissah sensitized participants on self-care and how to keep themselves from suffering depression in their line of duty.

Similar trainings have been held in other parts of the country.    

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