The burden of mental health disorders continues to grow, with significant impacts on health and major social and human rights along with a strain on the economy. In developing countries like Ghana where deliberate infrastructure has not been put in place to diagnose mental health disorders at an early stage, the situation remains more prominent. Mental Health disorders could include depression, bipolar, schizophrenia and other psychosis.

Bipolar Affective Disoder 

With about 500 million people living with mental health disorders at different levels of intensity across the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that about 60 million have bipolar affective disorder. Bipolar disorder also known as manic-depressive illness is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Statistics on Bipolar in Upper West  

Statistics on bipolar disorders remain highly scarce at the national level and the same applies to the Upper West Region.

According to the focal person on Mental Health at the Wa Municipal Health Directorate, Sylvester Basagnia although there might not be concrete data collected on the number of people living with bipolar disorders, some cases recorded so far point to the possibility of a lot more cases that have gone undetected.

Wa Municipal Health Directorate, Sylvester Basagnia

Mr. Basagnia blamed this on a number of factors. These include: inadequate mental health staff, inadequate infrastructure at the various health facilities and the lack of integration of physical health care and mental health at the Out Patient Departments (OPDs) of health facilities.

Causes, Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorders 

In the opinion of Mr. Basagnia, individuals can be genetically predisposed to bipolar disorders. Bipolar disorders can also be triggered by what Mr. Basagnia termed as “psychosocial pressures” which include marital problems, financial problems, loss of a close family relative and many among others.

Again, chemical imbalances in the brain structure can trigger bipolar disorders in some individuals.

The chemicals are called neurotransmitters and they include noradrenaline (norepinephrine), serotonin and dopamine. Mr. Basagnia says there is evidence that if there is an imbalance in the level of one or more of the neurotransmitters, individuals could develop symptoms of bipolar disorders.

The focal person on mental health said depression and manic episodes are the two major symptoms of bipolar disorders.

In the case of depression, an individual loses interest in all activities that hitherto brought him/her joy and would rather prefer to retreat from social interactions and sleep all day. Eating patterns are affected leading to about a general Five (5) percent body weight loss during this period.

When the depressive side gives way for the manic, an individual is expected to explode with adrenaline.

This individual would engage in daunting tasks and must finish them at all cost irrespective the consequences.

Mr. Basagnia explained that when females exhibit manic episodes, they tend to be more amorous, offering sexual interaction to anyone who is available while males become more focused on tasks, adventure and “unnecessary” risks.

The focal person on Mental Health at the Wa Municipal Health Directorate, Sylvester Basagnia was unhappy that while bipolar disorders could be easily managed at early stages, if was unfortunate that it had to deteriorate before patients are taken to health centres or psychiatric facilities. Enough public education, he said is key to identifying and managing bipolar disorders: this is why he believes celebrating the World Bipolar Day (WBD) is a big step towards that direction.

World Bipolar Day  (WBD)

World Bipolar Day is celebrated on of March 30, every year to enhance global education, create an opportunity for open discussion and invalidate some popular myths associated with bipolar disorders.

The day again is celebrated to call on governments worldwide to give the necessary funding and attention to mental health care.

For those living with bipolar disorders, WBD offers an opportunity to connect with others as well as assistance in gaining access to valuable resources and relationships that can improve their lives.

Improving Mental Health Care

Although there is no absolute cure for bipolar disorders, there are many treatment strategies that have been employed by health practitioners to manage the illness.

A combination of counseling or talk therapy and medication is the most common strategy. Common medication include mood stabilizers like lithium, atypical antipsychotics could treat both manic and depressive episodes of and help maintain a stable mood.

Misdiagnosing bipolar disorders could have devastating effects on patients but that is what happens at the various health centres across the country.

Most clinicians and prescribers at the OPD levels of health facilities and Pharmacies have no education on mental health issues and therefore mistake the symptoms for bipolar for other diseases.

This only compounds the illness and reduces the chances of proper management. This is why Mr Basagnia has recommended for all clinicians and prescribers to be schooled on mental health disorders so that they can detect both physical and mental health issues.

Again, he called on government to engage more mental health workers while boosting logostics and funding to enable community visits. He also called on the public to desist from what he called “finger pointing” as it derails the morale of patients and causes them to have relapse.

Mr. Basagnia encouraged individuals to willingly walk into mental health facilities to review their mental health status rather than blaming it on spiritual beings.

Story by Mark Smith

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