The University of Newcastle, Australia

UON furthers its support for mental health reform in Ghana

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

A University of Newcastle (UON) academic is travelling to Ghana, West Africa this week for the country’s third Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference.

Chris Kewley_Ghanaian Nana Queen Mother
Associate Professor Chris Kewley with traditional leader Nana Queen Mother Abena Gyamfua II during his visit to Ghana in 2015.

Associate Professor Chris Kewley will be joined by Australian High Commission representatives, university students and local politicians in Ghana.

Support from the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research & Innovation) Office, Faculty of Health and Medicine, and Postgraduate Study at UON, will enable 250 Ghanaian mental health students to attend the conference to learn more about how to lead clinical change and combat the mistreatment of people with mental health issues in Ghana. Over 500 students, health professionals, tribal leaders and NGOs have registered to attend the conference and associated skills and field studies.

The Australian High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr Andrew Barnes, will be launching two PhD scholarships worth more than $230,000 which the UON announced at the conference last year, which will support two local Ghanaian students to research mental health care and stigma awareness in Ghana.

Associate Professor Kewley, who is an international advisor to the Mental Health Foundation of Ghana and lead facilitator for the conference again this year said despite significant reform, human rights violations of the mentally ill remain widespread across the country.

“Reforming mental health services is complex and has to take into account religion, spirituality, traditional and tribal animistic beliefs, and their role in the aetiology and treatment of mental illness in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Associate Professor Kewley.

“Cultural sensitivity is paramount and therefore we work within a Ghanaian sensitive pedagogy to assist students and tribal leaders to blend traditional approaches with modern scientific mental health thinking.”

UON has worked closely with the Mental Health Foundation of Ghana since 2012 to support the Ghanaian Government’s mental health care reforms across the country and this year has partnered with the University of Cape Coast and the University of Health and Allied Sciences in Ghana.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference brings together the Mental Health Foundation of Ghana, Australian High Commission to Ghana, the University of Newcastle, Rotary Clubs in Australia, Australian College of Mental Health Nurses, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, PFL (Preparation for Life) Education, Hunter Institute of Mental Health, Mental Health Educators in the Diaspora, and several small businesses in Australia and Ghana.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference and associated skills workshops and field studies will run from 17 to 22 October in Accra, Ghana. This year’s theme is ‘Dignity in Mental Health, Psychological and Mental Health First Aid’.

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