Mentall illness in Kenya
Up to 40% of in-patients in health centres across the country and another 25% of out-patients suffer from mental conditions. [ Photo / Global Giving ]

Kenya, concerned at the high rate of mental illness among its people, has toyed with the idea of declaring mental health a national emergency. A taskforce on Mental Health released findings in July last year recommending mental illness to be categorized as an epidemic so as to prioritize mental health in public health and socioeconomic agenda.

Mental health is described as a state of well-being where individuals recognize their abilities, are able to cope with normal stresses of life and work productively to make a contribution to their communities. Key findings indicated that Kenya has a high burden of mental illness due to ill health, psychosocial disability and premature mortality with huge gaps in access to care such as therapists.

Majority of Kenyans associate mental health and mental illness with negative narratives, leading to low focus on the importance and benefits of mental health and wellbeing, according to the report.

The taskforce, in fact, recommended the establishment of a mental health and happiness commission to advise, coordinate and continuously monitor the status of mental health, and report on the annual National Happiness Index.

The taskforce, inaugurated on 11th December 2019, comprised of a multi-sectoral team from the Ministry of Health, and other agencies under the leadership of Dr Frank Njenga. The rising number of mental health related cases in Kenya – including depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, some of which end up in suicide – has been a major concern to stakeholders and the government.

A 2016 research showed that a quarter of the Kenyans suffers from some form of mental illnesses which is not taken seriously and are more often discriminated against.

Up to 40% of in-patients in health centres across the country and another 25% of out-patients suffer from mental conditions, a policy report released by the Ministry of Health in May 2016 showed. This translates to one in every four Kenyans or more than 15 million people.

Depression and anxiety disorders are the leading mental illnesses in Kenya.

Meanwhile, as the government budgets for financial resources to bridge the huge mental health financing gap, infrastructure for mental health, building capacity and competencies of the workforce for mental health, there is effective help from therapists who can handle different forms of mental illness. But the challenge is in choosing the right therapist and this article https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/9-things-to-look-for-in-an-anxiety-therapist/ offers effective tips for this.

In Kenya, it is estimated that one in every 10 people suffers from a common mental disorder. The number increases to one in every four people among patients attending routine outpatient services.

Depression and anxiety disorders are the leading mental illnesses diagnosed in Kenya, followed by substance use disorders. Among the different types of substances, alcohol contributes to the largest burden of substance use related illnesses in Kenya.  Of great concern is the fact that alcohol abuse is most prevalent in the 18-29-year-old age group.

Ninety per cent of the one million suicides globally are associated with some form of mental disorder, namely stress, depression, bipolar and schizophrenia.

Next Read >> Children’s Mental Health During Covid-19 Pandemic

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