• Built in 1910, Mathari is the only national referral mental hospital but its disapidated sate fuels stigma and people people avoid.
•The Health ministry has been negotiating with the Gruppo San Donato, an Italian health firm, to explore avenues of collaboration.
Mathari Mental Hospital will be rebuilt on 200 leafy acres in Karen as the government seeks to address mental health challenges.
The land in Karen has been identified for construction in a public-private partnership involving both local and international private sector players.
The Health ministry is negotiating with officials from Gruppo San Donato, an Italian health firm to explore collaboration.
The team signed an MoU on advancing mental health in Kenya at State House on Saturday.
The Italian officials toured Mathari Hospital before touring the proposed site.
The new mental hospital will be renamed the National Teaching and Referral Neuropsychiatric Centre in Karen. It is expected to provide better care, more room and ease pressure on Mathari Hospital.
It was not immediately known when the new hospital would be built.
Mathari will be upgraded for other medical purposes.
The partnership will train psychiatrists and psychologists for the new hospital and the rest of the country.
A team lead by the mental health taskforce chairperson Dr Frank Njenga toured Mathari in February last year and a new hospital was needed.
On Saturday, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said, "It is sad to note that mental health conditions remain a silent epidemic due to stigma, discrimination, reduced access to treatment and psychosocial support."
The CS said other factors are compounded by increased demands and expectations of life, poverty, unemployment, domestic conflicts, competitive lifestyles and efforts to achieve beyond means.
The situation has further been worsened by the mental health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic which has severe mental health consequences.
“While a lot of gains have been made in the overall improvement of physical health status, the rising burden of mental ailments threatens to reverse these gains," Kagwe said.
He said this deterioration calls for strategic positioning of mental health in the country’s agenda and mobilisation of resources to address these disparities.
Built in 1910, Mathari is the only national referral mental hospital in the country.
“A lot of work is going on to transform Mathari. We have a competent board and teams there working to change the face of Mathari,” Dr Njenga said.
He added, "We have a budgetary allocation, we have a new independent board but critically we have good will. Goodwill translated into soil.
“The government has allocated 200 acres in Karen to relocate Mathare from were it has been since 1910. It won't be the same.
Health ministry data show mental illnesses in Kenya are a significant cause of ill-health. An estimated 25 per cent of outpatients and as much as 40 per cent of inpatient visits involve diagnosable mental health conditions.
The country has witnessed an unprecedented rate of suicide, with an estimated mortality of 5.6/100,000 population.
Kagwe said that while a lot of gains have been made in the overall improvement of physical health status in the country, the rising burden of mental ailments threatens to reverse the gains.
The Kenya Mental Health Action Plan 2021-2025 seeks to correct the current situation where Kenyans have no access to quality mental health services in their local health facilities.
“The available services are kilometres away and are mostly in deplorable conditions not adequately resourced to meet the increasing demand for mental health care.” the CS added.
(Edited by Bilha Makokha)