OPEN PRESENTATION AS PDF
I am really delighted to make this
presentation at this conference in Toronto albeit I am not physically
present to do so. It is a crying shame that due to very unfortunate
circumstances bordering largely on discrimination and oppressive
policies by the Canadian High Commission in Ghana, I was refused
a visa to travel to participate in this conference.
The organizing committee did what it could to reverse this regrettable
decision but its efforts did not yield any positive results. I,
on my part also wrote an appeal letter against the decision which
even at this moment had not even acknowledged. I know and believe
that in course of time, justice and fairness will prevail in this
matter as I am determined to fight this modern slavery and stark
discrimination against Africans intending to travel to Canada or
nay part of the world. I trust that you would all join in this fight
to ensure that all human beings regardless of colour, race or creed
are treated fairly and equally!
I must commence this presentation by stating that the background
to this chosen topic hinges on the abuses in the mental health system
in Ghana where in some situations people are sent to the psychiatric
hospitals very much against their will and subjected to all manner
of bad treatment.
MindFreedom Ghana as an organization that operates in the communities
with our core activities being Awareness Creation, Prevention, Advocacy
and Research reaches out directly to relatives and friends of persons
with mental disorders by getting them to be involved in any decision
regarding their welfare. We strongly insist on recognition of the
rights of such persons whereby their needs and wishes ought to be
respected without anything unduly being imposed on them.
Peculiar to the Ghanaian society, one has parents, grand parents,
siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins and even friends to about one’s
problems and expects solutions / relief rather than the unfriendly
‘strange’ persons in the psychiatric hospitals to deal
Issues of stigmatization as well as ingrained cultural beliefs in
Ghana and indeed Africa about mental disabilities in part happen
to be the reason for some of these abuses inherent in the mental
health system in Ghana. Situations abound currently where persons
with mental disorders are dragged against their will and consciousness
to spiritual camps and fetish priests to exorcise supposed demonic
In our community awareness projects, we have organized sensitization
activities such as getting some of our members to talk about their
experiences and how they went about situations when they had problems
with their mental health.
Some of the things they have talked about inter alia related to
what and how they might have developed the problems, how their family
cum friends treated them, the sort of treatment they had had at
the psychiatric hospitals and how they are perceived to be in their
To make these activities lively and involving, we use drama sketches
and traditional Ghanaian dances to drive our points home. Some photos
from these activities are available for participants to see.
Still on community awareness programmes, we have appeared on both
radio and TV to sensitize the public on their mental health needs
as well as rights of persons with mental disabilities.
In our appearance in the media, we have raised issues about getting
our country to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights
of Persons with Disabilities. Ghana has signed the Convention but
yet to ratify.
It is pertinent to mention that on abuses at the psychiatric hospitals,
we have had occasion some time ago in 2007 to go undercover to take
some photos at the main psychiatric hospital located in Accra, Ghana’s
capital. There three psychiatric hospitals in Ghana. Some of the
images captured were quite disturbing and most dehumanizing.
There were scenes of some persons on admission there being virtually
naked and sitting in the open in the blazing tropical sun. We also
got scenes of gates to the wards which had strong chains with padlocks
affixed to them. There were also some scenes from the wards which
revealed worn out beds with torn foam mattresses. Some of the photos
are available to look at.
Having got those photos, we wrote articles in the newspapers against
such flagrant human rights violations and keeping largely against
their wishes and in such degrading conditions. We also went on air
speaking against these human rights violations.
During our Mad Pride street march in 2007, we had placards with
inscriptions against these abuses in our psychiatric hospitals.
We also presented a petition to the Minister of Health on these
human rights abuses.
It must be noted that we have come across some challenges bordering
largely on apathy and stigma for associating ourselves with persons
with mental disorders in our communities. These pertained to sections
of the public in the communities as well as government institutions.
Another challenge also relates to financial constraints where we
are not able to reach out adequately to all the communities where
we operate and even beyond.
I must intimate that we are convinced beyond every reasonable doubt
that our activities / efforts at curbing psychiatric abuses in our
country will best yield results when Ghana ratifies the UN Convention.
Provisions such as Articles 12 and 25 in the Convention will be
employed to ensure that persons with psychosocial disabilities choose
the sort and form of treatment they desire.
We are of the strong conviction that we shall have the clout, legal
backing and an unfettered capacity to make noises that would ensure
that psychiatric abuses prevalent in the psychiatric hospitals are
curtailed if not controlled.
To this end, we have since last year organized series of activities
aimed at educating the citizenry on the provisions of the Convention
and following it up this year with advocacy for its ratification
in our country by the end of the year. These activities are currently
being sponsored by the Disability Rights Fund.
In passing I wish to observe on behalf of my organization that psychiatric
abuses are condemnable and completely repugnant to human dignity.
We from the developing world are more vulnerable because of the
systems / beliefs prevailing. It is however not beyond repair to
correct such abuses. We do need your support in various forms to
be able to achieve our objectives.
To this end I would like to use this forum to appeal to you as individuals
and / or institutions to support with funding and / or materials
to enable us operate smoothly. That without support from funding
agencies / institutions abroad, my organization for instance would
not have been where it is right now. Our very existence and performance
to date has largely been from the support received from outside
Let me take this opportunity to wish this conference every success
in all its deliberations and pray that the outcome will adequately
address the theme. Albeit I rue my absence from being in Toronto
to join you physically and meet new people from different parts
of the world, I must state strongly that I am with you in spirit.
I wish each and all well and optimum success in all your undertakings.
I pray that you all get back safely to where you came from. I believe
that another opportunity will come for us to meet sometime in the
Before ending I wish to thank the organizing committee for making
every effort to get me to be at the conference, but enemies of progress
and humanity have made this simply impossible.
Thank you once more and may God richly bless all of you.
I will say in my language “AYEKOO" to all participants!!!
DAN A. TAYLOR
P.O. Box AC610
Arts Centre, Accra
Tel / Fax: +233 302 774 261
Cell: +233 277 421 207