Mental Health in Ghana: A Growing Crisis with a Surprising Solution

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All across the globe, in every nation, there are people struggling with mental illness. Unfortunately, a negative stigma has developed in many parts of the world against receiving treatment for mental illness. These stigmas are longstanding, and while there are some people who fight against these stigmas, millions of people are still suffering without a chance at receiving the help they need.

This is certainly the case in Ghana, where studies show that an estimated 650,000 Ghanaians are struggling from severe mental illness. Over 2 million more suffer from moderate to mild symptoms. This staggering statistic shows that nearly 9% of Ghanaians have some form of mental illness, and considering that the stigmatization prevents many from coming forward about their struggles this number may be even higher.

Johnwick Nathan heard these statistics and was appalled by the lack of resources for these struggling people. He’s the CEO and founder of a mental healthcare company in Arizona called Harbor Health Integrated Care, and through his experiences with his patients, he knows how difficult suffering from mental illness with no hope of treatment can be.

After seeing the statistics in Ghana, he realized that he could make a great change in the country using his experience and resources. He traveled to Ghana first time in June 2021, and started his journey to permanently alter the state of mental healthcare in the country. He met with Ghanaian mental healthcare experts and officials who are familiar with the situation, so he could plan out how to implement his treatment programs. He visited mental health facilities in Ghana and provided them with needed resources.

There’s no doubt that these sorts of contributions are greatly beneficial to Ghanaians, but the fact is, applying a fresh coat of paint on the mental health care industry of Ghana, won’t be enough to solve the mental health crisis that’s ravaging the country. It’s economic hardship and a lack of opportunity that frequently causes these mental health issues, something that Johnwick is familiar with.

He was born in Haiti, and came to America when he was three. His mother wanted to seek out the best possible life with the greatest opportunities for her and her six children, and she arrived in Hudson, NY with hopes of a better future. Unfortunately, they continued to struggle for quite some time. They didn’t have much money growing up, and Johnwick suffered the ire of his classmates as a result. “I came to the States, obviously not having much. I remember growing up and you go to school and everybody has everything but you try to make do with what you had,” he said, remembering his childhood.

They may have suffered from a lack of money, but they had each other. They were bolstered by a community that cared for them, and Johnwick found his passion in religion and music. He only found his final career path while working at a local group home for addicts while studying music production in Arizona. He loved helping people make it out of the toughest spots in their lives, and he dedicated his life to helping the struggling people of his community. “Doing that, it changed my life. And at that moment I said ‘you know what?  I think this is what I want to do.’”

Johnwick realizes that while mental health services are vital to communities, the underlying causes of mental illness need to be addressed to. As the old saying goes, ‘If you give a man a fish he eats for a day if you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.’

He wants to give people a fishing pole, not just a fish. He’s trying to do the same thing in Ghana.

This CEO kept not only kept his promise to Ghana but took it to a new level. In July Johnwick Nathan went to Ghana second time and signed a contract to finally fix the roof of the local clinic. He also plans to build a farm, a market, and a bank. Giving Ghanaians more opportunities will greatly ease their stress. He also hopes that building a bank will help young Ghanaians learn about financial literacy, which will give them a greater degree of financial freedom in the future.

His contributions have been well received by Ghanaians; in fact, Johnwick has found a new kind of community while doing his work in Ghana. He frequently interacted with the Ga-Adangbe tribe, and because of his great contributions to their people, they saw fit to grant him the royal title Nii Borlabi Tesaa I. This Kingship isn’t just a title to Johnwick, it’s a promise – a promise to continue supporting his community in Ghana for years to come. He wears the title proudly, and he continues to discover new ways he can benefit his community every day.

The changes Johnwick has made in his community back home in Arizona, as well as his newfound community in Ghana prove some important points. Mental health care is vital to struggling people all around the world. The stigma against mental health treatment can be erased through the careful and considerate application of non-judgemental treatment programs, and it’s important that people approach these programs on their own terms. The mentally ill need to be seen as they are in Johnwick’s facilities, as people with real genuine illnesses that need to be cared for rather than psychos.

He’s also proven the fact that one of the best ways to try mental illness is to address it’s roots. If we can find the root causes of mental illness and cut them out, our communities will be all the more healthy.

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