The Tale of Two Acts: Disability v. Mental Health Policy (and Activism) in Ghana

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Essya NABBALI, Independent scholar, Canada
On 1 December 2012, the Mental Health Act (Act 846) would be passed in Ghana and heralded as a "major milestone" in justice work. It came on the heels of the Persons with Disability Act (Act 715) and establishment of disability as a political category some six years earlier on 23 June 2006. Whereas the Persons with Disability Act fell to the Ministry of Gender, Children, & Social Protection, seeking rights and entitlements for disabled persons (especially around accessibility, employment, and education), the Mental Health Act was championed by the Ministry of Health and Chief Psychiatrist, perhaps above all.

Previous scholarship brings into stark relief the divide between critical mental health, or what has increasingly been called "mad," activism and the wider disability movement. In particular, philosophies of the mind and its health tend to prompt concerns of consciousness, sentience, and rationality, brimmed with fears of unpredictability and dangerousness. Such assumptions have carried serious consequences for personhood, legal capacity, and "risk" management, under auspices of health and care.

Working alongside such a body of studies, this paper foregrounds the discourses (and hopes) that have circled the Mental Health Act and confronts the boundary conflicts between the many disability advocates who joined calls in its wake.