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Cost, stigma limiting access to mental healthcare

Mental health professionals in Kisii County have revealed that mental illness-related stigma and cost of treatment are some of the most prominent barriers to accessing treatment and recovery among persons with mental illnesses.

Rodgers Omuya, a psychiatrist and Chairperson of Kivulini Healthy Minds during an interview with KNA in Kisii town. Photo by Mercy Osongo

Speaking to KNA at Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital, Counseling Psychologist Ruth Mogaka said that stigma from society has immensely contributed to persons with mental illnesses shying away from getting help.

“Most of these patients with mental illnesses are always isolated by their family members because the community associates mental health challenges with witchcraft,” she said.

Mogaka noted isolated mentally sick people were likely to develop other health-related complications because they cannot access any health services.

Similarly, Mr Rodgers Omuya, a psychiatrist and chairperson of Kivulini Healthy Minds a community-based organization (CBO) confirmed that persons with mental illnesses also face stigma from healthcare workers who have not been trained to handle such cases at health facilities.

The CBO has been partnering with mental health experts in Kisii County to tackle cases of mental health in the region through provision of usual medication, psycho and occupational therapies. The psychiatrist noted that despite the availability of second-generation drugs that are more effective and have less side-effects, the same are expensive and cannot be accessed at public health facilities for treatment of mental illnesses.

“We have been pushing for pharmacists to lobby if they can stock the drugs in our hospitals, but we still do not have them,” said Omuya.

He asked the government to avail second-generation antipsychotics in public health facilities and also regulate the prices of the drugs to ease treatment for patients with mental illnesses.

In June 2021, the government launched the Kenya Mental Health Action Plan 2021-2025 to address gaps in mental health systems, including increasing mental healthcare financing through various mechanisms such as Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

By Mercy Osongo

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