Too much of worry about financial hardship causes mental illness— Dr Akwasi Osei

Dr Akwasi Osei.

Former Executive Director of Ghana’s Mental Health Authority (MHA), Dr Akwasi Osei, has stated that excessive worry about poor income or financial hardship can result in mental illness.

The renowned psychiatrist, who now lectures at several health institutions in Ghana, gave the caution while drawing a picture of the relationship between poverty and economic hardship during an interview with Media Without Borders.

“About ten, fifteen years ago we established a project called the Mental Health Poverty Project. It studied the connection between mental illness and poverty. There is a vicious cycle between the two. If you are mentally ill, you don’t even have the opportunity to attend to your business. If you are self-employed, chances are that the business would collapse. That sends you into poverty.

“If you are employed by somebody else and you are not able to go to work for so long, chances are that he will fire you. That sends you into poverty. If you are a student, chances are that you would drop out; so, you are not able to rise on the socio-economic ladder. So, mental illness has an effect of inducing poverty,” he said.

Dr. Akwasi Osei.

He added: “If you don’t have any means of livelihood or your salary is not enough, you keep thinking, thinking, thinking. So much thinking pushes you into depression. That’s a mental illness. And you are not able to go back to work because of depression. It’s a vicious cycle. It is established worldwide that there is a relationship between mental illness and poverty. Financial hardship can lead to depression.”

Approximately 13 percent of people in Ghana suffer from a mental disorder, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Of that figure, 3 percent suffer from severe mental health conditions and the other 10 percent suffer from a moderate to mild mental disorder.

Dr. Akwasi Osei.

Dr Osei advised that individuals going through financial distress seek help at the closest health establishment.

“First and foremost, if you are going through financial hardship, you can easily seek advice on how to handle your crisis. If you are going through a financial crisis, there are two crises— your mental health crisis and the cause of the crisis. First seek help for your mental health crisis. Go to the nearest health facility.

“They would help you out of it. And thereafter, you can get advice on the financial hardship that pushed you into a mental health crisis. It could simply be how to manage your little income well. You may realise that it is not so much how much money you earn but how well you utilise that money you earn,” he said.

Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/


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