addressing the high risk of mental health issues among Appiatse tragedy survivors

Oct 9, 2023 | Health | 0 comments

Accra, Ghana— Grace Essien’s* husband died in a January 2022 explosion that levelled Appiatse, Ghana’s western region, halting life for her and their three children.

Traumatized and grieving, the 30-year-old felt her world had ended. “That was one of my hardest times. I was so devastated that even after a few weeks, any sound drove me crazy.”

Essien found hope after six months of rigorous mental health and psychosocial support from the Psychiatric Association of Ghana, Pantang Hospital, WHO, and other stakeholders.

“The counselling and support I received changed my life. Essien says I started a small business and can now take care of my kids.

The collision between a motorbike and a mining explosives truck devastated the 800-person Appiatse community. The explosion killed 13 and injured 200.

While the Ghanaian government and other stakeholders provided critical relief to survivors, WHO, the Psychiatric Association of Ghana, and Pantang Hospital offered mental health and psychosocial support.

Dr. Ruth Owusu-Antwi, President of the Psychiatric Association of Ghana, warns that disaster survivors are at high risk of mental health disorders without prompt intervention. Acute stress reactions, post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, and depression were observed among survivors.

With technical and financial support from the UK Department of Health and Social Care, the WHO trained 25 psychiatrists, nurses, and psychologists on the WHO mental health and psychosocial support toolkit to provide much-needed support.

Prof Francis Kasolo, WHO Representative to Ghana, says, “We are happy to have been able to support the Ghana government’s response efforts to bring relief to the victims of this tragedy in Appiatse.” “This shows WHO’s dedication to working with governments to make mental health services, a human right, accessible to all.”

WHO Ghana Noncommunicable Diseases and Risk Factors Officer Dr. Joana Ansong says, “We used different methods to reach everyone who needed help. Our group, family, and individual therapies helped survivors.”
This support directly affected 250 adults and 20 children with severe mental health issues that could worsen.

“This intervention came when things were difficult, and people became very hostile because of the trauma,” recalls Beppo Assembly Member Thomas Yaw Enyam. “It has helped our community heal.”

Over a year later, survivors like Essien are rebuilding Appiatse and moving on.

“Through the counselling sessions, I have been able to overcome some of the challenges, and I am very grateful,” she says.

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