By Lorraine Ayango October 10th 2021
The world mental health day was commemorated with calls to address disparity in access to mental health care.
This year’s theme being ‘Mental health in an unequal world’, provided a platform not only to have conversations around unequal access to mental healthcare but also look for solutions.
The impact of covid-19 has also impacted on the increase of mental illness as some have lost their lively hoods.
During the event hosted at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching Referral Hospital, gaps such as lack of trained personnel in mental health care, stigma and discrimination subjected upon the mentally ill were addressed.
Dr Frank Ngenga, the presidential advisor on mental health, stood in for Hon Mutahi Kagwe the cabinet secretary as the chief guest during the celebrations.
Dr Njenga said that stigma greatly limits access to care and decreases quality of life for individuals affected by mental health disorders adding that lack on investments in mental health is also a major concern.
Dr Njenga also announced that plans are underway to set up six regional centers of excellence on mental health noting that already the work going on to address mental health at JOOTRH increases its probability of being one of the centers.
He pointed out that JOOTRH’s MAT wellness centers is offering world class services on mental health and called upon the civil society to continue supporting mental health interventions.
He said that gaps created in resources allocation on the account of covid 19 has been a major challenge in the management of mental health in the past one year.
“We do not have enough professions in the field of mental health, the entire Kenya has only 500 specialized mental health workers, I call upon the community health workers to raise awareness on mental health.” Prof; Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, Governor Kisumu County emphasized.
He also threw the challenge to Kenya medical training school, to train specialized mental health care workers who should be stationed in all facilities from level one adding that it would help in early detection of mental illness.
While appreciating out reaches done through the radio stations, he said “We need to do more, not everyone has been reached.” He added
“Mental illness is an illness just like any other disease, there is no reason to treat people with mental illness differently.” Dr James Nyikal, member of the health committee in parliament emphasized.
“The biggest sign and symptom are lack of insight, they do not realize they are sick, so do not expect them to take themselves to hospital.” Dr Nyika added.
Dr Nyikal noted that there are a myriad of reasons that trigger mental health, noting that it’s important to identify them and address them.
Nacada representative, Dr Yvyone Olando gave worrying statistics indicating that data from Nyanza is above the national average, while national percentage of bhang abuse is one percentage, Kisumu indicators are at two percent.
The national figures for changaa abuse stand at 2.6 percent, while in Nyanza it’s at 5.6 percent, abuse on cannabis sativa is 0.8 percent while in Nyanza its 1.8 percent.
She said that Nacada is willing to partner with Kisumu County to set up a rehabilitation center in bid to intervene in mental health care provision.
Red cross Secretary General Dr Asha Muhammed underscored the fact that mental health needs to be normalized, and in doing this a lot more needs to be done to sensitize communities, families, couples and support people.
“Covid -19 has disrupted mental health, through it the demand for health care has risen and brought in the for front what was already brewing” Dr Asha said.
She pointed out the need for capacity building of staff who are heath care workers, adding that Red-cross has been having online engagements to highlight and address inequalities in bid to better mental health.
Also present during the function were Deputy Governor Dr Mathew Owili, WHO country representative, Dr Julie Nabyonga, Director General for health, Dr Patrick Amoth, Kisumu County Women representative Hon Rosa Buyu, Dr Gregory Ganda, Kisumu County Chief Officer health and JOOTRH’s CEO Dr George Rae among other guest.