Kenya to Set Up Tele-Counseling for Mental Cases

11 September 2020

Nairobi — As the world marks World Suicide Prevention Day, the government announced plans to set up a tele-counseling and telepsychiatry center at the Mathare Hospital to assist Kenyans with mental health issues.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman said the centre will have a free toll number which will be operational day and night to assist even those who have been mentally affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

"This 24/7 facility will enable the adequate utilization of the scarce human resource for mental and psychosocial support. The callers will receive both emergency and non-emergency support. The hotline will be operational and continue to be operational post-COVID-19 pandemic to address all mental challenges that we face as a nation," said Aman.

He further announced that the government has already developed a National Suicide Prevention Strategy Program 2021-2026, highlighting measures that need to be taken to prevent suicide in Kenya, as cases increased by 58 percent between 2008 -2017.

"The increased reported cases of suicide in Kenya show the dire need to prevent suicide in Kenya. The World Population Review ranks Kenya at position 114 out of 175 countries with the highest cases of suicide. In addition, Kenya's suicide rate is at 6.5 suicides per 100,000 people," Aman said.

Capital FM runs a programme known as Bonga, that seeks to reach out to people experiencing mental challenges to speak out so as to get help.

The World Suicide Prevention Day is commemorated every year on September 10, organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), to create awareness that suicide can be prevented.

On July 20, the task-force on Mental Health called on the government to declare Mental Health a national disaster in the country.

The Taskforce Chairperson Dr Frank Njenga said mental health issues are deep-rooted and it is high it is given the attention it deserves.

The task force further recommended that an independent mental health commission be formed to monitor people's happiness levels and provide a report annually.

"We are recommending an equally decisive declaration by our government that recognizes that too many people are dying either by suicide or by the root of gender-based violence and we suggest that such a move will and can save lives," Njenga said.

The Njenga-led taskforce also recommended that mental health services be well funded by the government in order to encourage many people to open up and share their problems without fear of how much it will cost them to treat the disorders.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said mental health issues have increased since March when coronavirus was confirmed in the country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the formation of the task-force last year in June amid rising depression and mental sickness which led to high cases of murder and suicide.

The task force was mandated to assess Kenya's mental health systems including the legal, policy and administrative environment to identify areas that may benefit from reform, for optimal delivery.

Depression is the most common mental illness worldwide.

The World Health Organization's 2014 report ranked Kenya at position four in Africa with 1.9 million people who have the condition.

According to the Kenya Mental Health Policy (2015-2030), 20-25 per cent of outpatients seeking primary healthcare presented symptoms of mental illness.

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