Visit to MindFreedom Ghana has many lessons for us all
In April 2011, a delegation from MindFreedom International visited MindFreedom Ghana in Accra, Ghana, Africa. Celia Brown (MFI Board President) and David Oaks (MFI director) gave a workshop about how those using the mental health system, and those who have survived psychiatric abuse, can work more closely with the general cross-disability movement to amplify their voices.
Visit to Ghana
by David Oaks, Director, MindFreedom International
Thank you to everyone who assisted the recent trip to Ghana by a MindFreedom International delegation.
We spent about 9 days working with MindFreedom Ghana leaders, doing sites visits -- such as Accra Psychiatric Hospital, and holding training workshops.
Initial photographs from the visit are available on Facebook in both the MindFreedom International and MindFreedom Ghana sections. Just go to Facebook, search for those groups, and view the photographs.
One reason to visit community organizing efforts in a poor, developing country, is that this is the future of the mental health system. Numerous international organizations such as World Bank, World Health Organization, World Federation for Mental Health and others, have stated that a top goal of the international mental health system is to increase the amount of mental health care in poor countries.
At first this can sound like a great idea, similar to, say, getting low-cost anti-malarial drugs into poor, developing tropical nations.
But with the mental health industry, it's not quite that simple.
Remember, the World Health Organization had done two major studies showing that people living in poor developing countries had the best recovery rate following a diagnosis of "schizophrenia." In other words, there may be something about the community, style of interaction, tolerance in a poorer country, that does better with people who are considered very different.
Yes, we need to remember that many people in Ghana to this day are actually chained in the backyard.
But the answer is not to eliminate those metal chains, by replacing them with chemical chains that harm 100 times more people.
Whenever I say this, I have to hurry and point out that MindFreedom is pro-choice about taking prescribed psychiatric medications, and many of our members choose mental health pharmaceuticals as part of their recovery.
But we need to be clear: The western-style simplistic way of looking at mental and emotional problems as some kind of mechanical imbalance, is spreading. In Ghana we saw a kind of worship of these western theories that is not based on fact. Already we are seeing people hurt in Ghana by the rapid spread of powerful psychiatric drugs, without the provision of full information and alternatives.
We'll have more information about Ghana, but in the meantime, please keep in mind that globalization of the powerful and profitable psychiatric industry is proceeding quickly. We need to mobilize and organize among everyone who cares not just for people with mental health labels, but for all poor, marginalized and disempowered people who deserve housing, jobs, community, support and freedom.
(Photo: MindFreedom Ghana 2010 march for ratification of UN treaty on disability rights.)