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Mental Health Experiences of Street Children in Ghana and the Sustainable Development Goals

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition of mental health emphasises an individual’s functioning at a level where s/he can contribute meaningfully to society. This requires that particular attention is paid to the mental health experiences of street children and adolescents in Ghana’s bid to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, this has so far not been the case both in research and policy. This study seeks to add to the growing body of literature on street children by examining the level of psychological distress among street children and some of the factors that are associated with their overall wellbeing. The guiding framework for the study is the sustainable development goals which aim at leaving no one behind no matter the cost and a recently launched child and family welfare policy in Ghana - the first of its kind. A sequential explanatory mixed method approach was adopted for the study. A quantitative survey was conducted among 207 street children in Accra, Kumasi and Sekondi-Takoradi also known as Ghana’s golden triangle cities. To examine prevalence of mental disorder and level of mental health problems, a series of chi-square (using K10 categorical variable) and univariate analysis of variance (using K10 total score) were conducted. To study predictors of mental health problem, we used multiple linear regression analysis and examine a set of perceived quality of life and social connection predictors. The results of the survey show that more than half of the respondents (51.7%) experienced severe mental disorder across the three cities. The finding that a high number of street children reported severe mental disorder following events of the last four weeks prior to the survey corroborates several studies on street children across various geographical contexts. The study also found that children who have low wellbeing and left home because of abuse or parental divorce were at greatest risk for anxiety/depression. Additionally, the association between wellbeing and anxiety/depression was stronger among boys than girls. Lower wellbeing in boys is associated with higher odds for anxiety/depression. This finding is quite compelling because lower wellbeing is usually recorded among street girls. Following the quantitative study, Photo Elicitation Interviews (PEI) aimed at obtaining a deeper understanding of their everyday experiences are being conducted with 20 street boys and girls in Accra. The PEI involves giving disposable cameras to the children to capture images around three themes that were drawn from the survey namely poverty, safety and aspirations. The PEI is being carried out in collaboration with Streetinvest, an organisation that provides day care services for street children. This study addresses significant global child education, health, and development challenges. Hopefully, results from both the quantitative and qualitative studies will inform policy and intervention development for street children and move Ghana towards achieving agenda 2030.

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