Public Health Lecture Highlights Strategies for Improved Mental Wellness and Wellbeing

In commemoration of World Health Day, the University hosted a public health lecture themed "My Mental Health, My Right” on Wednesday, 24th April 2024 for members of the University Community and the general public. The lecture aimed to raise awareness about mental health issues and discuss effective strategies for maintaining good mental health to impact both personal and professional lives. The Guest Speaker for the day was Dr Ruth Owusu-Antwi, Senior Specialist and Head of Psychiatry at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi.

Introducing the audience to the topic, Dr Owusu-Antwi explained mental health as a state of well-being where an individual realizes their abilities, copes with the normal stresses of life, works productively, and contributes meaningfully to society. She said failure to achieve any of the outlined aspects indicates poor mental health and emphasized that good mental health involves adapting to life's changes and challenges and managing stress effectively.

Dr Ruth Owusu Antwi - Senior Specialist and Head of Psychiatry, KATH

Dr Owusu-Antwi highlighted four key indicators by which mental disorders manifest themselves namely distress, dysfunction in occupational and social activities, destructive behaviours, and deviation from socially accepted norms. She cautioned that these signs when left unaddressed could lead to severe mental disorders. She further cited the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics which indicate that one in every four people experiences a form of mental health illness at some point in their lives, with stress being a leading cause.

Addressing common myths about mental disorders, Dr Owusu-Antwi clarified the distinction between mental health issues and spiritual issues. She noted that mental illnesses are common and that seeking medical help can significantly reduce suicide rates. Depression, she highlighted, is the leading cause of mental disability worldwide and has been linked to increased drug addiction and alcohol abuse.

Outlining ways of managing stress, Dr Owusu-Antwi recommended ensuring a mentally healthy workplace by monitoring workload, compensating employees for working extra hours, providing flexible work arrangements for employees, and encouraging employees to take vacations and annual leave.

Dr Owusu-Antwi also stressed the importance of building physical reserves by engaging in regular exercises, having adequate sleep of at least 7 hours 4 days a week, avoiding the use of mobile phones in the dark, eating nutritious meals, going for regular checks on Body Mass Index, avoiding excessive caffeine intake, alcohol and smoking.

Dr Owusu-Antwi also advised building emotional reserves through supportive relationships, proper organisation of living and workspaces, improving air quality, developing good support systems, applying effective time management skills and practising spirituality to contribute to mental well-being.

Ending the lecture, Dr Owusu-Antwi emphasized that mental illnesses are treatable, and urged people to seek medical help when needed. She also entreated the audience to make a conscious effort to take time off their routines and relax, to avoid piling up stress.

The Vice Chancellor and Chairperson for the lecture, Professor Richard K. Amankwah in his opening remarks stated that in light of the alarming figures of stress-related illnesses, mental health education cannot be overstated. He said that as stress continues to impact the mental health of both students and workers, public health lectures play a vital role in promoting awareness and providing strategies for effective stress management. Hence, the University’s focus on the topic “My Mental Health, My Right”.

In an address delivered on behalf of the Chairman of the University’s Health Services Committee, Ms Sitsofe Kploanyi, a counsellor and the secretary to the committee said that the University Management recognises that personal issues, workplace challenges, and general environmental stressors can threaten optimal mental functioning and create imbalances. Hence, the Health Services Committee’s dedication to the health and well-being of both staff and students.

The 2024 Public Health lecture received participation from the Ghana Health Services, Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Assembly, Ghana Police Service, Ghana Fire Service, Ghana Immigration Service, Ghana Prisons Service, AngloGold Ashanti Iduapriem Limited, Nursing and Midwifery Training College, Senior High Schools within the Municipality and members of the University Community. 

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