In Ghana, mental ill health has a negative impact on a huge scale. For those with poor mental health, a lack of understanding from their families and communities means that they’re amongst the most marginalised people in society. It means that people with mental ill health can find themselves forced to stay in their homes or taken to camps against their will in an attempt to cure their ‘curse.’
Even where communities are supportive, there are practical barriers to accessing support. Although Ghana passed a Mental Health Bill in 2012, resources to support mental health are still scarce. Only eight outpatient centres, and 2,890 mental health workers serve a country of over 21 million people, creating a ratio of one mental health worker for every 7,266 people. In comparison, the UK has one mental health worker for every 371 people.
This means that for many people in Ghana, especially in the rural north where wealth and services are disproportionately more scarce, accessing professional support in a clinical setting is not an option.
Art therapy provides an accessible alternative for people experiencing minor or moderate mental ill health. Art can’t diagnose mental ill health or replace inpatient services. But it can be used as a medium to articulate and address emotional issues before they spiral into severe mental ill health.
Arts and Minds is a three-year programme that promotes wellbeing through creativity. We use visual arts – including traditional Ghanaian art – to support individuals with mental ill health, and influence public perceptions, creating a more inclusive approach to mental health.
We will work with the Sirigu Women’s Organisation for Pottery and Art (SWOPA), the health and education authorities, and the regional mental health specialist to train teachers, health workers and local leaders to identify common mental health issues, and support individuals.
We will train local volunteers to become community art facilitators (supported by a mental health specialist) so that they can deliver regular community arts sessions in 18 rural communities over three years. Alongside this, we will deliver public art in public spaces, and deliver art exhibitions to engage the broader public.
We will bring together local organisations, community leaders, and local and national government to change the conversation on mental ill health. Arts and Minds enables people in developing communities to access the information and the tools they need to manage their condition and remain part of their community.
 World Health Organisation, Mental Health Atlas Ghana Country Profile, 2014. http://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/atlas/profiles-2014/gha.pdf
 Full Fact, ‘Mental health staff in the NHS’, 2017. https://fullfact.org/health/mental-health-staff-nhs/
We’ve worked with local arts organisations in Africa, South America and the Middle East to challenge stigma, create sustainable incomes and provide an outlet for expression for marginalised groups.
Same Difference worked with children living in some of the most challenging circumstances, giving them the tools to express and deal with the trauma they had faced.
We know from our work with partners that the most effective way to combat stigma is to make communities part of the conversation. We already have experience in training and supporting communities to tackle taboos around issues such as disability and sexual and reproductive health.