Observe and assist psychiatric
services in Ghana
Gain a real insight into the mental health care system
1st & 3rd Saturday
1st & 3rd Saturday
Ghana Mental Health & Psychology Experience
Our mental health and psychology experience will allow participants to see how psychiatric services operate in Ghana. You will gain a deeper understanding, insight and awareness of the mental health care system as you observe and assist in the local government hospital as well as head out regularly into the community on our home visit and outreach project.
By spending time shadowing and observing the mental health team, you will gain a real insight into the struggles faced and the stark contrasts of how a developing country treats their patients.
Ghana’s psychiatric services stem all the way back to the early 19th century, where patients who suffered from mental health illnesses would be detained in prisons. This slowly developed into “lunatic asylums” created under the legislation that passed in 1888.
The first purposeful psychiatric hospital was built in Ghana in 1904 with a total of 200 beds. Over the next 60 years, key plays in the Ghana mental healthcare system began to address key issues that were prevalent in the sector. Not only this, but extensive amendments were made to hospital buildings with rapid expansions in staff training and recruitment. As knowledge and understanding began to increase, patents were removed from chains and isolation and more innovative treatments started to emerge.
Despite such advances, many people still choose to practice and believe in more traditional forms of treatment. There are wide beliefs that mental health illnesses are caused by supernatural evil forces that are best exiled by visiting shrines, herbalists centres and prayer camps.
With a population of over 26 million, it is estimated that around 2.5 million of people are currently suffering from some form of mental health illness. With only 13 practising psychiatrists in the public service and occupational therapists, social works and CPNs all hard to come by, inadequate staffing remains a recurrent and big problem.
A recent survey conducted by The World Health Organisation, stated that despite some modest achievements, the situation of mental health programmes, policies and action plan in Ghana was found to be unsatisfactory. It found that many patients were left untreated for patients suffering from many different mental health issues, such as psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, dementia and other mental related issues.
Nevertheless, government policy in the long term remains to establish and expand psychiatric facilities in all regional and district hospitals. You will now find registered mental health nurses and psychiatric nurses in many of the regional and district hospitals.
Treatments are now be widely offered in areas such as occupational therapies and community outreach programmes, in line with the new mental health act that passed in 2012. With the aim to combat the stigma and discrimination associated with mentally ill people in Ghana in a more community-based approach – this is where you and volunteers can observe and help!
You will be based at Dixcove hospital and will spend your time shadowing and assisting the mental health team where you can observe consultations, counselling, drug administration and more. Here you will witness varying forms of mental illnesses and will learn a lot about the processes and potential solutions.
Working directly with the mental health team based at the hospital, you will be given assignments, taken through the Mental Health Act and assist with reviewing patient files to evaluate any signs of progress.
Despite the hospital having a large catchment area, many of the surrounding villages are well below the poverty line. With transport costs being high and the stigma still attached to mental health illnesses, many locals chose not to attend the hospital to seek treatment from the team.
The main focus of the programme, to which locals and volunteers will benefit immensely from, is heading out to the community and carrying out home visits. There are currently five CHPZ Zones (community-based health planning services), which are visited on a regular basis – on average two days per week (Tuesday and Thursdays).
There are many activities when carrying out home visits within the surrounding communities:
- Attending and treating patients that have already requested the team’s services.
- Identifying potential patients, who, in most cases roam or isolate themselves in specific areas and enrolling them for care with the assistance of their families or local authorities.
- Checking up on patients who did not attend their scheduled appointment for whatever reason.
- Educating everyone interested about the services provided.
There are currently over 200 cases of mental health patients that require scheduled home visits, but due to the lack of funds and medicines (Antipsychotics and Anticonvulsants) there is simply not enough time nor resources to help everyone. We are hoping we can change this, with the help from you and the hospital we can ensure everyone in the community is seen and receive the treatment required.
On an adhoc basis, volunteers can also help organise and run outreach programmes. This can be anything from visiting schools, churches or community gatherings with the sole purpose of educating everyone in attendance about mental health illnesses. We believe this is the best chance of breaking misconceptions and teaching everyone about available treatments and how we can help.
You will feel a part of the team from day one, where the nurses will talk through the different ways in which take care of patients. The friendliness and willingness of these healthcare professionals, together with their high levels of English mean they are always on hand to answer any questions.
As Ghana is a developing country, the facilities and services can sometimes reflect this. Please be aware that from time to time factors outside of our control may limit the project and schedule availability. Anything from doctor strikes to holidays can affect the programme and we will do our best to arrange alternative activities.
This mental health and psychology programme is only available to those already studying a psychology or mental health related degree at university. Please note we cannot guarantee your level of hands-on involvement and this will be at the sole discretion of your supervisor in-country and based on experience, duration and willingness to get involved.
Accommodation & meals
Accommodation & meals
During your time in Ghana you will be staying within our volunteer accommodation that is nestled up in the hills overlooking the small village of Busua. Offering far-reaching views out across the sea and surrounded by palm trees, this quiet spot is the perfect place to call home.
Most of your time will be spent on the picturesque beach, that offers golden white sands with palm trees lined along the whole bay. An up and coming tourist hotspot for surfers, you will be able to cool down in the blue waters of the Atlantic and even try your hand at surfing.
The small village community of Busua (where everyone knows everyone), will welcome you with open arms and you will be made to feel like a local from day one. During your free time you can laze in one the many hammocks located on the beach, relax in one of the several beach bars and restaurants, join in with a game of football with the children, play the drums around the bonfire or go for a swim at the local hotel.
There are several small shops scattered around the village where you can purchase some snacks and other essentials. The nearby town of Takoradi offers everything else you may need, with large supermarkets and ATMs.
The brand new purpose built volunteeraccommodation, made from traditional stone carvings offers spacious living although basic, it is clean and comfortable. Everyone will come together at meal times outside under the porch to share stories and to enjoy some local cuisine.
You will be sharing your bedroom with up to 5 other volunteers, in single sex rooms. Each room has 3 bunk beds and an en-suite bathroom that provides western style toilets and cold showers. All bedding is provided, as well as a ceiling fan to keep you cool at night.
A member of our local team will also live at the house, should you need anything while there.
During busier times (generally June to September), you may be placed at one of our alternative houses. We work with several local host families in Busua, who will provide a unique experience for everyone. Please note, these houses may not have running water, so you will have to shower with buckets.
You will be provided with three meals cooked on- site at the accommodation from Monday to Friday. Most people tend to travel at the weekends, but if you are staying around the house then meals are available, but are a small additional cost.
Most meals are traditional Ghanaian dishes that consist of a lot of carbs. The main kinds of meat are fish, chicken and goat. Here is an example of the meals you can expect:
Breakfast – Porridge, sandwiches, tea & coffee
Lunch – Spaghetti, rice, red red
Dinner – Rice, banku, stew, fufu, soups, chicken
There are a number of restaurants on the beach that provide several western options – just a 5- minute walk from the accommodation.
Vegetarian options are always available at every meal time. Vegan dishes can be provided upon request.
Our team will do their best to cater for any dietary requirements, but there may instances where you may need to purchase alternative ingredients at your own expense.
All of the below prices exclude the £149 registration fee. The total price payable is the below price + £149, as will be confirmed in the application process. To find out exactly what's included as part of fees, please click the What's Included box on the programme page.
The fees you pay go towards the structure and support put in place in order to provide you with an organised and safe environment in which to volunteer. The programme fee goes directly to our local team in Ghana and is used towards the following:
- 24-hour airport pickup
- Three meals per day (on volunteering days)
- In-country orientation
- 24-hour in-country support
- Your first night's stay in Accra and transport to Busua
The registration fee that you pay to confirm your place on the volunteer programme is retained by our team in the United Kingdom. This fee is used towards the following:
- 24-hour UK based emergency support
- Unlimited telephone and email support
- A comprehensive volunteer handbook
- Assistance with all aspects of your trip
- 100% financial protection
- Regular programme inspections
- Certificate of completion
What's not included
There are still some parts of your trip that will need to be funded by yourself, these include:
- Flights to Accra (£400 - £700)
- Travel insurance (18 per week)
- The transfer back to the airport (£50)
- Transport to the project (£0 - £3 per day)
- Visa (£60 - £100)
- Criminal background check (£25)
- Spending money (estimated at £50 - £100 per week)
Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
What are the requirements to join?
We welcome all volunteers from any background, religion and nationality, as long as you have no criminal convictions and are able to supply a clean criminal background check. In order to join the programme you need to be at least 16 years old on the programme start date.
Individuals need to have a good level / understanding of English but it does not need to be your first language. As some programmes can be quite strenuous, we recommend that you should be physically fit.
What date should I arrive and leave?
You should arrive at Kotoka International Airport in Accra (ACC) on your selected start date, being the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month. You will be met by one of our local team members or an appointed driver who will be holding a named sign. They will take you to the nearby accommodation for you to settle in.
The programme ends on a Saturday of your final week and you should depart the accommodation on this day. Our local team will be happy to help organise any onward journeys or book transport back to the airport.
Are there any age restrictions for solo travellers?
The only age restriction in place is that you have to be at least 16 years old before your programme start date. Anyone over this age is welcome. Generally the average age range for our programmes is 18 - 25, although this is by no means definitive and we regularly have volunteers of all ages.
What is the minimum age for travelling with my family?
If you are travelling with family and at least one member is aged 18 years old or over, then we welcome anyone from 12 years and up.
When should I apply for the programme?
You can apply for this programme at anytime, however we advise that you apply as soon as possible to have the best chances of securing your placement on your selected dates. Some of our programmes have limited capacity and spaces can get filled up quickly.
If you are wanting to volunteer within the next few weeks, then please contact us and we will do our best to accommodate your needs.
It is possible to change your start dates once you have been accepted, however this is subject to availability and can attract a small administration fee.
What duration would you recommend?
On gaining feedback from previous volunteers, we believe 3 - 6 weeks is the ideal time to get settled in and really involved with the programme. This also allows you to make the most of your free time, to explore this beautiful country and to participate in any activities.
We regularly have volunteers come for 1 to 2 weeks that tell us that they did not believe they had enough time and wish they had stayed for longer.
What will my itinerary be?
Please make sure you arrive into Kotoka International Airport in Accra (ACC) on Saturday.
Day 1 (Saturday) – Arrival & Accra
Please ensure you arrive into Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana (ACC) on your selected start date – being a Saturday.
A member of our local team will be waiting for you in the arrival’s hall holding a named signed. You will make the short journey to our partner hostel, around 20 minutes away.
The rest of the day is yours to spend relaxing and getting to know your fellow volunteers as and when they arrive.
Day 2 (Sunday) – Travelling to Busua
After a good night’s rest and a delicious breakfast, we will take a taxi to Accra central bus station. We will be taking a VIP bus from Accra to Takoradi, with the journey taking around 5 hours. The buses have air-conditioning, a tv and are very comfortable.
On arrival into Takoradi, we will take a short taxi ride to Busua. The rest of the day is then very relaxed, where you can get used to your newsurroundings and you can explore the beach with everyone else.
Day 3 (Monday) – Orientation and volunteering
First thing in the morning (around 8:30am), Ebenezer will provide you with your full orientation. He will go into detail about each project, health and safety information and show you around the village, pointing out all of the essentials. The childcare and teaching volunteers will then get straight to work, with medical volunteers having a tour of the hospital.
Day 4-7 (Tuesday – Friday) – Volunteering
You will continue your volunteering. The majority of volunteering programmes will start at 8am and finish at 3pm. Shifts in the hospital can vary and this will be explained to you during your first few days.
Should you need anything at the project, then just let our local team know.
Day 8-9 (Saturday – Sunday) – Weekend
Whether you are looking for a relaxing weekend on the beach at the accommodation, or looking to explore everything Ghana has to offer – this is your time to do as you please.
The weekends are ideal for you to travel Ghana and you will find a comprehensive list of ideas and also information about our organised weekend trips on our website.
The following weeks
Your next week(s) will follow a similar pattern, with volunteering from Monday to Friday and then free time Saturday and Sunday.
Our local team are there to support you throughout your stay. If you need advice about your travel plans or just someone to talk to then they are there for you.
Last day (Saturday)
On your last week, Saturday is your official last day with The Mighty Roar. If you wish to stay longer then please discuss this option with our local or UK team.
If you are heading home then we can help arrange your return airport drop off. Please note that this is not included within the programme fee and there are several options to take – detailed nearer the top of the handbook.
How will I get to the project?
The hospital is located in the next village, called Dixcove. Transport to and from the project is not included within the programme fee and you should expect to budget around £4 per day – split between others.
You will make your way to the hospital and back using one of our trusted drivers and a member of our local team will accompany you on your first day.
Is there Internet and phone signal?
Busua does not currently have Wi-Fi capability, so we recommend that all volunteers take an unlocked mobile phone (or purchase one while in Ghana for around £15) and buy a local sim card. You will then be able to use 4G Internet (although sometimes intermittent) and contact friends and family at home with minimal costs. Our local team will be happy to assist with this.
What is Busua like?
Situated just 30km west of Takoradi and located in the south of Ghana, Busua is a magnet for surfers and tourists who are looking to spend a few days relaxing on the beach.
There’s a sociable vibe with several chilled-out beach bars and cafes, congregated on the beach where you can while away the hours.
Traditionally a fishing town, Busua is an up and coming tourist destination because of it’s safe surf. Offering shark free waters and no strong currents, it’s the perfect place for all levels of surfers.
The village has only recently obtained full electricity connection (around 15 years ago) and most of the village still does not have running water.
There is a real sense of community spirit here, with everyone knowing everyone and volunteers being welcomed with open arms.
The secluded beach offers amazing walks along the coast and you can venture in-land to trek the jungles. Cape Coast and other famous touristy destinations are also just a short journey away.
All amenities are nearby, including ATMs, hospitals, restaurants (serving local and western food), as well as good transport links to the rest of Ghana – with taxis always readily available.
The Mighty Roar Local Team in Ghana
Our programmes in Ghana are run by our dedicated local team, who are committed to ensuring you have the best time ever. Ebenezer and his colleagues provide the structure for your stay, including the accommodation, meals, airport pickup, in-country orientation and of course support.
They are sure to become your good friends and they will give you a unique insight into Ghana, teach you about their culture and traditions as well as recommend and organise the best places to see while there.
Will I get an in-country orientation?
Yes. Your orientation will be on Monday morning and will go through everything you need to know for your time in Ghana. You will be shown around the local area and the shops, ATMs and taxi rank will all be pointed out to you. If you need to, our local team can assist with any currency exchange and help you pick up anything you may need.
We will also show you the main points of interest, such as western restaurants, the stunning beach, bars and other tourist attractions. You will also get the chance to visit the projects we support where you can make initial introductions and get familiar with the programmes we provide.
Our local coordinator will go through all of the important health and safety information that you should follow during your time in Ghana. You’ll learn about the Ghanaian way of life, and the cultural differences.
What is the weather like in Ghana?
With Ghana being so close to the equator, the tropical climate here is always generally warm with temperatures between 21-35°C throughout the year. There are two rainy seasons, March to July and September to October. However, the rain normally comes in short, sharp bursts and then clears up – so don’t let this put you off. The hottest time of the year is between December and February.
Can I volunteer if I live outside of the UK?
Yes of course. We welcome volunteers from around the world, no matter how far away from the programmes you are. The majority of volunteers that we host come from the UK, US, Germany, Canada and Australia.
Can I go with my friend / partner?
We have many volunteers that travel with their friends, family members or with their partner. If required, we can ensure that you are based on the same project and stay within the same accommodation. On request, we can normally organise a private room too.
Is it safe to travel to Ghana?
Did you know that Ghana is often referred to as “the safest country in Africa?” The locals will welcome you with open arms and make you feel part of their community from day one.
We regularly visit and participate in each and every one of the programmes we offer in Ghana to rigorously check all aspects of the project and accommodation are safe and that all procedures are being followed. These include but are not limited to checking the living conditions within the volunteer accommodations, checking the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, tasting the food you’ll be eating and going on any weekend trips recommended by us or our local team.
We monitor the stability of all of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis and have constant contact with our overseas teams to ensure that our volunteers are safe.
All volunteers will receive a comprehensive volunteer handbook when you choose to join us on one of our programmes. This detailed document addresses a large range of issues such as health, safety, visas, as well as going into details about local cultures and traditions.
When you arrive in-country, you will be given a safety briefing during your orientation that will cover things like emergency procedures, how to use local transport and any cultural differences.
Our in-country team are on hand to help with any issues or to answer any questions and please do not forget that our UK office is available 24/7 in case of any rare emergencies.
While we can never guarantee your volunteer experience will be 100% trouble free, we have taken all of the necessary precautions to minimise all risks and to ensure the programme is as safe as possible.
Before You Depart
When do I pay? Can I pay in instalments?
To confirm and guarantee your placement on one of our programmes, you need to pay the registration fee of £149 within 7 days of receiving confirmation that your application was successful. The remaining balance is then due no less than 60 days prior to your programme start date.
Payments can be done all at once or be spread out over several months and can be paid via BACS (bank transfer). We do accept additional payment methods such as debit and credit cards, although there may be additional fees.
Do I need any vaccinations and / or malaria tablets?
As we are not trained medical experts we cannot tell you exactly what vaccinations or other medication you may need for your trip. You will need to consult with your local doctors or travel clinic.
You can also find additional information on the NHS Fit For Travel website.
How do I arrange my flights?
We work closely with several partners in the aviation industry to provide competitively priced flights. Not only this, but our specialist team know each and every one of our programmes so we can ensure you get the most suitable flight with regards to arrival and departure times into Ghana. If you would like any assistance with booking your flight, then please drop us an email and we will be happy to provide a quote.
Please note that we cannot accept standby flights. All flight details provided to us must be fully confirmed.
Do you offer travel insurance?
Travel insurance is a compulsory part of your volunteering trip, that’s why we have teamed up with Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive travel insurance policy. It is suitable for all of the programmes we offer and can be taken out at any time. You can read more about our insurance here.
If you decide to purchase your travel insurance from an alternative provider, please ensure it covers you for everything you will be doing. Adequate travel insurance must be in place no less than 60 days before your programme start date. Without proof of this insurance, we will not be able to accept you onto the programme.
When will I receive my volunteer handbook?
You will receive a welcome email from us as soon as you have paid the registration fee and your placement has been confirmed. The welcome email will include the volunteer handbook that provides a wealth of information that will help you better understand all aspects of your upcoming trip as well as details about our insurance policy.
Please note, all material is sent via email and hard copies cannot be sent.
On Your Trip
Can I arrange a private room?
The majority of our accommodation only offers shared rooms that are usually same-sex. However, if you would prefer a private room please let us know and we will at least try for you.
Can you cater for my dietary requirements?
We will try our best to cater for any dietary requirements. When you submit your application please include any required details within the dietary section and we will liaise with our local coordinators.
Are there any public holidays that would affect the project?
Although we try to be as clear as possible of all holidays that affect project availability, due to the nature of some countries, holidays can often be sporadic or prone to change.
If such a holiday falls when you are on your placement, this is generally a good time to experience unique festivities where you can join in with the locals.
What is the dress code at the projects?
We ask that all volunteers take the approach of a smart and responsible image during your time in the communities and on projects. It is best to also take some older clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.
Generally, it is best to avoid tight and very short clothing and anything that may have offensive slogans on it. It's recommended that you take some nicer clothes for weekends or any free time you may have.
We do not wish to impose strict regulations, however we do ask that you respect the local culture and do your best to adhere to the clothing guidelines within the volunteer handbook.
How much spending money will I need?
For general expenses and some travelling, you should find that £50 - £100 per week is sufficient. However, this can vary greatly depending on the amount of activities or trips you do and if you are eating out during the week.
Will I be able to travel whilst on the programme?
There should be plenty of time to travel while on your placement and we actively encourage that you do! The local coordinators will be able to give you lots of travel tips and provide any help needed for your independent adventure.