Residents of Kisii County have been asked to look out for signs that community members may need additional support in coping with mental health issues affecting them.
Speaking during a four-day mental health awareness initiative, Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital (KTRH) Psychiatrist, Dr. Mary Njuguna said that one in every ten persons in the community has a mental condition and therefore, residents need to identify people having mental health issues and refer them to the health facility for screening and treatment.
“We are asking the young people to visit the internet and websites to do assessment and ask themselves if they have symptoms of depression, anxiety and so on, and if it happens that you have any of the conditions, you can come to the hospital and get the services that you require,” she said.
Dr. Njuguna pointed out that they were also creating awareness on mental health among the Kisii county staff to help them determine mental issues affecting them as part of commemorating the Mental Health Awareness Month in May that was initiated by the World Health Organization.
The Psychiatrist noted that one in every four persons who visit the hospital have been seen to have a mental health condition.
According to the World Health Organization report (2014), Kenya ranks fourth in Africa and ninth in the world with 1.9 million people suffering from mental illness.
Rodgers Omuya, another Psychiatric Clinical Officer at KTRH, told residents to visit different hospitals within the county and get help in case their relatives show any signs of having mental issues.
“We want our people to know that a mental health disorder is not associated with witchcraft, but rather it is a disease like any other that can get treated and people can resume their work as usual,” he noted.
Kemunto Onyancha, a Social Worker at KTRH encouraged residents who have patients suffering from mental health to ensure they register for the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) so that they can ease the cost of treatment since mental health illness is a long term disease.
“We ask the county government to set aside funds for the vulnerable families with mental health patients in order for them to get the required treatment in all our health facilities,” she said.
Last year, the government launched the Kenya Mental Health Action Plan 2021-2025 to decentralize mental health services and programmes to primary health care at the community level.
The action plan is set to provide a framework for both national and county governments to implement the Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-2030 and Taskforce on Mental Health recommendations through strategic actions.
The plan will address existing gaps in mental health systems by setting out targets to increase mental healthcare financing through various mechanisms such as the Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
The national and county governments are expected to provide resources towards the establishment of user-friendly mental health infrastructure and amenities.
By Vincent Nyambane and Mercy Osongo