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COVID-19 Related Depression to Escalate

The Ministry of Health (MoH) is in the process of developing a National Suicide Prevention Strategy and Program (2021-2026) in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

Ministry of Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Dr. Rashid Aman said that in response to the current Covid-19 pandemic, the government is providing mental health and psychosocial support as a key intervention.

“During a crisis like COVID-19, most people will experience some degree of distress such as feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, sadness, difficulty in sleeping, fatigue, irritability, anger or aches and pains. Although individuals respond differently, this is normal and for the majority, it will improve and go away over time without any need for medical intervention,” explained Dr Aman.

Speaking at the Mathari National Teaching and Referral hospital during the commemoration of the World Suicide Prevention day Thursday, the CAS said the number of suicide cases in the country have increased in the last several years.

“A report by the WHO indicates that the number of suicides reported in the country rose by 58 per cent between 2008 and 2017. There are 317 suicide cases reported every year. The increased reported cases of suicide in Kenya shows the dire need for measures to prevent suicide,” he said.

According to Dr Aman, the World Population review ranks Kenya at position 114 among 175 countries with the highest suicide rate.  In addition, Kenya’s suicide rate is at least 6.5 suicides per 100,000 people.

The CAS said that one of the interventions to effectively address the growing need for mental health and psychosocial support for persons who are infected or affected by COVID-19, as well as the general population, is the provision of tele-counselling and telepsychiatry services.

“A suicide prevention hotline will be embedded in a Tele-counselling and Tele-psychiatry Centre, which requires the setting up of a call centre, with the infrastructure to enable it to be used effectively to make calls, answer messages, as well as respond to calls from all parts of Kenya remotely,” he said, adding that Mathari National Teaching and Referral hospital has identified designated offices where such a call centre will be set up.

Dr Aman explained that the suicide prevention hotline- which will be operational even after the pandemic, will be a toll-free line, and many Kenyans will have access to it for mental health and psychosocial support where callers will receive both emergency and non-emergency support.

“Trained mental health personnel, including nurses and doctors, have been identified. They will be on call and work in shifts at this tele counselling and telepsychiatry Centre. These cadres will run the call Centre as we await the deployment of 40 psychologists, who are being recruited by the Public Service Commission,” said Dr Aman.

On the Covid-19 Statistics, Dr Aman said that yesterday 143 people had tested positive from a sample size of 3,854 tested in the last 24 hours, bringing to 35,603 the number of confirmed positive cases.

“The cumulative tests now stand at 485,836.  From the 143 cases, 129 are Kenyans and 14 are foreigners. In terms of gender, 85 are males and 58 females.  The youngest is a nine-month old infant, while the oldest is 83,” he said.

He explained that in the distribution of the cases by Counties, Nairobi led with 35 cases, Kitui 23, Mombasa,  Garissa, Kiambu and Nakuru 9 each, Kilifi 8, Turkana 7, Kajiado and Machakos 5 each, Kisii and Kisumu 4 each, Embu 3, Uasin Gishu, Makueni, Trans Nzoia and Nyeri 2 each while Migori , Busia, Isiolo, Taita Taveta and Meru had one case each.

“On a positive note, I am delighted to inform you that 490 people have recovered from the disease, 248 from the Home-Based Care Program, and 242 have been discharged from various hospitals. This brings our total recovery to 22,047. I thank our healthcare workers for the good work that has enabled us to achieve these wonderful results,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we have lost five patients to the disease bringing our fatality to 612. Our sincere condolences to the family and friends of those who have lost their loved ones,” said the CAS.

By Joseph Ng’ang’a



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