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Action Plan to improve national coordination on mental health launched

The Government has launched the Kenya Mental Health Action Plan 2021-2025, which provides the framework for the country’s mental health transformational journey over the next five years.

Speaking today during the official launch of the Action plan in Nairobi, Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Dr. Mercy Mwangangi, said the plan seeks to decentralize mental health services and programmes to primary health care at the community level.

“This Action plan will provide a framework for both National and County Governments to implement the Mental Health Policy and Taskforce Recommendations through strategic actions with specified targets and indicators”, she said.

The CAS called for concerted efforts and investment in implementing strategic actions and targets   as set out in the plan.

Dr. Mwangangi noted that a Taskforce Report on Mental Health in the County found glaring gaps in mental health systems and therefore the plan will address these challenges by setting out targets to increase mental healthcare financing through various mechanisms, including through Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

The National and County Governments, she added, shall be expected to dedicate resources towards establishment of user-friendly mental health infrastructure and amenities.

This, Dr, Mwangangi said, will include ICT based services hardware at community and primary care level and ensure consistent supply of essential and high-quality medicine, equipment and technologies.

“We must strengthen our health information system to ensure timely and reliable collection and reporting of data on mental health indicators from the household’s level,” she added.

The CAS noted that public and private partnerships (PPP) will be an essential ingredient in the successful implementation of this Action Plan and called upon County Governments, Private sector, Faith Based Organizations, NGOs and Community groups to commit and invest in mental health to help actualize the objectives of mental health plan.

Dr. Frank Njenga of Mental health task force , Health CAS Dr. Mercy Mwangangi and Dr. Ruddi Eggars, WHO representative, during the launch of the Kenya Mental Health Action Plan (2021- 2025 ) in Nairobi. Photo by Nicholas Nthenge

“My Ministry will help develop coordination, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that will guide in the effective implementation of set targets”, she said, urging all players to adopt and integrate the Mental Health Action Plan in their programmes and activities.

Dr. Frank Njenga who heads the Mental Health Taskforce, said that unknown to the world, mental health issues are very common giving an example of between 800 thousand and one million people dying by suicide every year adding that translates to one human being losing a life every 40 seconds and yet suicide is a preventable condition.

“In places such as Makueni, Maseno , Muranga or even  Kwale,  approximately 11 people out of 100  working on their farms will have a mental health need but  do not know about it”, he added.

Dr. Njenga thus explained   that looking at the all the mental health needs, one finds that by the time children leave class eight everyone should have diagnosed at least 50 percent of all mental needs that will occur in the lifetime of Kenyan people.

“This is why one of the big strategies we have is development of curriculum that will enable teachers and parents to recognize the mental health needs of our children at a very early age,” he said.

He noted that bottom line mental health needs as found by the Task Force pauses a very heavy burden on the community but the investment as a community to that burden is also minimal.

On the issue of Mathari Hospital which needs almost an overhaul, Dr. Njenga said that there is a budgetary allocation that will translate into an Institution as the government has 200 acres of land around Ngong that will see Mathari National Hospital which has been in existence since 1911, physically relocated and this he noted is a move in the right direction.

Today’s launch was also attended by Dr. Rudi Eggars, World Health Organization (WHO) representative to Kenya.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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