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Call for funding to address mental illness

Mental health professionals have called on the government, to increase funding in mental and psychological support programs to address the rising cases of mental illnesses in the country.

The experts, drawn from all the 47 counties who were meeting in Embu Town on Thursday to commemorate 23rd annual Mental Health Nursing Conference, decried underinvestment in mental health and well-being.

They said, despite mental illnesses having biological basis like any other medical disease and ought to be treated in the public eye in a similar manner, it has been a low priority area for both tiers of government and it was time that efforts were made to address the neglect.

“The government should consider prioritizing mental health issues, like it has done for other ailments such as AIDS, Cancer and Covid-19,” said Andrew Matiiri who is the Chair, Embu Chapter of Mental Health Nursing Conference.

The nurses also advocated for resources to be channeled towards advocacy, in a bid to enlighten the masses on preventive measures, early detection and treatment.

Matiiri said awareness levels on mental disorders, were still very low leading to stigmatizing attitudes towards patients that hinder interventions or patient medication adherence.

“You will often find people labeling a person suffering from mental disorder as ‘mad’ which is attributable to lack of factual information about mental illness and wellness,” Matiiri said.

Keynote speaker, Prof. Catherine Mwenda, said it was wrong to tag people as mentally sick, until confirmed medically which will go a long way in defeating those strong negative emotional reactions towards people with mental illnesses.

She said some of the resources for intervention that the government ought to put in place include, free consultations and psychological care and management that will also encourage people to undertake regular checkups.

Prof. Mwenda attributed the rise in mental illness cases to various causes with drug and substance abuse topping the list.

Other causes cited include genes and family history, trauma, life experiences as well as environmental factors such as dysfunctional family life and divorce.

By Samuel Waititu

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