Felix Ntim Badu

Community Mental Health Officer 

'Patients are glad they can be treated, where they couldn’t be before.’

Felix Ntim Badu began his education into those who experience mental health problems early in life – as he left the school gates every day.

Attending Junior High School inside the gates of Ghana’s 500 bed Pantang Hospital he would regularly pass by patients.

He soon learnt they were not the dangerous individuals portrayed by others, instead developing a life-long fascination in psychiatry.

And so when years later he learnt of the mental health careers offered by the Kintampo project, he felt it was too good an opportunity to turn down.

Felix now works in a district hospital in the vast rural district of Sefwi-Wiawso in the Western Region of Ghana, covering a population of about 108,000 people and often travelling 70km to see clients.

Felix, 30, said: ‘When I was young I grew up near a psychiatric hospital, and there would always be mental health patients around the school..........I was a little scared at first, but I got to know they were not so bad, and that got me interested in mental health'.

‘After school I decided to train as a nurse, but then a few years ago I found out about the Kintampo project........when I heard about it I thought ‘wow, that’s my dream course’. I am enjoying my job very well. It is a nice job and I really enjoy helping people understand about their mental illness.’

Felix, a Community Mental Health Officer (CMHO), was a member of the first cohort of graduates trained by the Kintampo project in 2011.

His job now involves working with inpatients on the wards of his small hospital, as well as going out to see clients in their own homes and providing education.  Felix explained; we don't have a ward at the hospital so we keep our inpatients at the side ward of the wards in the hospital but because we want to reduce stigma we mix them with the other clients in the same ward'

'I give a health talk at the outpatient department of the hospital every morning which has helped us unite a lot to create awareness of mental conditions …...we have compiled a range of different talks that we give ... we also go for case detection in some of the areas with  high rates in our books’.

Felix has encountered many problematic social issues whilst in the job, and a particularly acute problem is the use of drugs and alcohol among farmers.

Their consumption of akpeteshie – a very strong spirit distilled from palm wine –means many farmers suffer with mental health problems, including depression.

Felix said: ‘Farmers also pick off the head of the cannabis plant, put that in with the alcohol and then drink it. They can drink more than 18 ‘tots’ (one 70cl bottle contains about 12) in a single day.'

‘The farmers work hard, they come home tired and they want something to get off to sleep, but this intake can lead to different conditions.'

Sometimes the farmers will beat their wife, they will assault their wife. We try and offer education about the dangers of what they are doing.

A big part of Felix’s work is educating clients and others in the community about mental illness, particularly boosting understanding about epilepsy.

Indeed, the father-of-one is a regular on local radio stations, explaining the causes of epilepsy to those who retain the belief that it is do with ‘evil spirits’.

He added: ‘I find this work very interesting, very stimulating. I realise that Ghanaians do not know much about mental health, but because we have been trained we can give people the information. Patients are glad they can be treated, where they couldn’t be before.’

Read more about our Community Mental Health Officers