Ghana: Ban shackling and invest in mental health services

October 9, 2017

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The government of Ghana should ensure adequate funding for mental health services in the country, a coalition of Ghanaian and international nongovernmental groups said. This is as a crucial step to eliminating the widespread practice of shackling and other abuses against people with psychosocial disabilities. The coalition includes several mental health and human rights organizations in Ghana, Human Rights Watch, CBM, Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, Anti-Torture Initiative, and the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez.


On the eve of World Mental Health Day, October 10th, 2017, the coalition said that the finance minister should set a levy to support mental health services, as required by Ghana’s 2012 Mental Health Act.

“People in Ghana resort to shackling people with psychosocial disabilities because they see no alternatives,” said Peter Yaro, executive director of BasicNeeds Ghana. “It’s now been five years since the passage of the Mental Health Act and it is high time for the government to invest in community-based mental health services so people with psychosocial disabilities can get the support they want, instead of ending up in shackles.”

The Mental Health Act of 2012 lays out the legislative framework for a levy, and says the finance minister should set up this resource to fund mental health services through parliament. The levy has yet to be established.


Ghana has made progress in safeguarding the rights of people with disabilities following reports by Human Rights Watch and the former United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez. In July, the Mental Health Authority oversaw the release of more than a dozen people with disabilities who were chained in Nyakumasi Prayer Camp in the Central Region. With pressure from local and international groups, the Mental Health Authority has taken steps to enforce a ban on shackling, but much more needs to be done.

“The government of Ghana has a real opportunity to lead by example, sending a message to other countries in the region and globally that it will not tolerate the inhumane treatment of people with psychosocial disabilities,” said Julian Eaton, senior mental health advisor at CBM. “They represent some of the most marginalized and invisible in society and deserve the same dignity and respect as anyone else.”

Source: Human Rights Watch news article, 9 October 2017