A new year has arrived with the mentally retarded and People with Disability (PWD) still having hope of fair and better treatment by people around them and the nation as a whole. For the physically challenged the government has given them a bit of hope of fair treatment in every aspect through the disability law.
This law, indeed, is meant to protect People with Disability (PWD), however, its implementation has not been visible enough to fulfill the purpose it was meant for. People with disability still suffer discrimination in one way or the other in such a way that one can insistently say that the disability law has not been useful after all.
For the mentally ill persons, they still have the hope and belief that if the mental health bill is enacted into law, there will be a change in their way of life, as they will be treated fairly, given the necessary respect and good health they have been longing for. This, in a way, might be true, but will society change its attitude and notion about them. Surely, the enactment of the mental health bill into law will bring good health care for them, but as to whether they will get society’s respects, is up to society to decide.
It was a good thing that the government gave hope to the mentally ill during the late part of last year, by including the mental health bill as one of the 24 fresh bills to be placed before parliament. This stepping stone towards the enactment of this law will cause a positive change in the lives of the mentally ill. The Government should not let this hope of enacting this law be left hanging, but make it a heart’s desire to make it come to pass, and more so, make sure it, together with the disability law, be implemented to fulfill the purpose it was meant for.
The mentally ill in society
It is unfortunate that many people in this part of the world still associate mental illness with bad luck or a curse. For many, mental illness is all about forgetting one’s identity, behaving in an abnormal way, and running naked on the streets, but little do they know that mental illness can be in any form, so long as the person in question is not in his or her right state of mind. Little do they know that mental illness is not all about being under a curse or being naked on the streets, and that everyone stands the risk of being a mentally ill person? According to Dr Akwasi Osei, there is a 25 percent chance of each individual getting a mental problem.
Mental illness takes place in many forms, sometimes in the form of depression, and not necessarily being naked on the streets. If that be so, then everyone is at risk, and if it is so, then it will be in the interest of every individual in the country, irrespective of one’s position in life, for the bill to be enacted into law. This is so, because, the existence of integrated care, which can be found in the mental health bill, would enable mental health services to be spread all over the country, and this will result into people not travelling long distances to get access to either Accra, Ankaful or Pantang for mental health needs. This will reduce the pressures and congestions on the existing mental health facilities, and further reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
People with Disabilities (PWD)
Just as every individual stands the risk of being mentally ill, so does everyone stand the risk of being physically challenged. Indeed, many associate it with a curse, just like the mentally ill, for many have the belief that most physically challenged people, especially women, are sometimes witches who were struck down by thunder and lightning when they were on their way to do evil. In view of this notion, many people refuse to show care for them, and even though the person has been struck by thunder and lightning and is disabled now, they still have the spirit of witchcraft and can easily bring them bad luck if they show them any form of kindness. Modernity and education have not changed this notion of people that much, as people still have the belief and attitude towards people with disability, forgetting that their situation can be as a result of childhood diseases like polio, one of the six killer diseases of children, or it can be through a motor accident, or as a result of old age. Even though there are unfortunate occurrences, and it is inevitable in every individual’s life, people still refuse to accept the fact that it could be either one of them who could be in the shoes of the PWD.
According to the Vice Chairman of the Disabled Sports Association of Ghana, Mr. Francis Adjetey Sowah, every living person has some kind of impairment, but those whose disabilities were conspicuous, bore the brunt of the discrimination associated with it. In Ghana, he said, about 2.2 million of the country’s population are persons with disabilities, and mostly live on the fringes and peripheries of society, adding that because they were the poorest and in the minority, their voices were not heard. He said they were seriously discriminated against, even with the passage of the Disability Bill.
“The disability Act, according to the Ghana Federation of Disabled (GFD), has 12 main objectives, some of this objective is to create an enabling environment for the full participation of PWDs in national development, to ensure access of PWDs to education and training at all levels, to facilitate the employment of PWDs in all sectors of the economy, to promote disability friendly roads, transport, and housing facilities, to ensure access of PWDs to effective health care and adequate medical rehabilitation services, to ensure that women with disabilities enjoy the same rights and privileges as their male counterparts, to ensure that law enforcement personnel, in cases of arrest, detention, trial and confinement of PWDs, take into account the nature of their disabilities, and as well ensure access of PWDs to the same opportunities in recreational activities and sports as other citizens. In spite of this well-documented act, people with disability still suffer discrimination.
If this is the problem at hand, it is up to society to make the lives of these people more worth living, and the government will do its part in enacting the law, however, considering the state being a democratic and a capitalist state as well, everyone enjoys according to how hard he or she has laboured, and more so, it is not obligatory for an individual or employer to employ PWDs or engage the services of the mentally retarded when it won’t be profitable.
If that be the case, it is up to the members of society to have a big heart and compassion, in order to show care for these vulnerable people. As the saying goes, “two heads are better than one.” Society and the government, working together to make the country a better pace for the people, will be a contributing factor towards the development of the country.