HEALTHCARE

Mental Health Task Force begins public forums Monday

The team's findings will be discussed in Cabinet within 90 days of reporting

In Summary

• President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the ministry to establish a task force to look into the status of mental health in country

• The team co-chaired by Dr Frank Njenga and an official from the Health Ministry will begin its public participation forums on Monday in various parts of the country

Mental Health Task Force co-chair Dr Frank Njenga and Health CS Sicily Kariuki during the inauguration of the team on December 11, 2019
Mental Health Task Force co-chair Dr Frank Njenga and Health CS Sicily Kariuki during the inauguration of the team on December 11, 2019
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

A team set up by President Uhuru Kenyatta to make proposals on a mental health policy begins taking views from the public on Monday.

The forums organised by the Mental Health Task Force co-chaired by Dr Frank Njenga and an official from the Health Ministry will take submissions until the end of the month. 

Public participation forums will also be held in various parts of the country.

The task-force was constituted on November 21 and inaugurated on December 11 by the Health CS Sicily Kariuki.

President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the ministry to establish the task force in the wake of rising depression and mental sickness-related murder and suicide cases.

The team will formulate policies to address growing concerns about mental health among Kenyans.

Uhuru said that the findings of the task force, which will be discussed in Cabinet within 90 days, will assist the government in the allocation of resources to mental health.

The first forum will be in Meru at Kamundi Hall from 9am, followed by another on Tuesday in Makueni at Wote St Joseph Multipurpose Hall.

Eldoret residents will meet the task force on Wednesday, January 15 at the Town Hall before the team moves to Nakuru on Thursday at Nakuru Old Town Hall.

“We are greatly concerned by the rising trends of suicide mortality, acts of violence and the burden of mental health conditions,” CS Kariuki said.

The team will meet residents of Mombasa at Tononoka Hall on Friday, January 16. 

It will then proceed to Kakamega at the Kakamega Town Hall on Monday next week (January 17), Kisumu at Kisumu City Hall on January 20 and Nyeri at YMCA Hall on January 21.

Kenyans have been invited to make proposals on solutions to their priority mental health issues and the level of preparedness to address them. 

Health CS Sicily Kariuki and Mental Health Task force co-chair Dr Frank Njenga during the inauguration of the task force on December 11, 2019
Health CS Sicily Kariuki and Mental Health Task force co-chair Dr Frank Njenga during the inauguration of the task force on December 11, 2019
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Forums in Garissa will be held on January 22 at Tana Gardens.

Nairobi residents are expected to interact with the team on January 27 at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

“On behalf of Kenyans, the task force has a responsibility to assess the causes of the increase in mental ill-health occurrences and recommend transformative solutions to the epidemics,” the team's statement reads. 

The task force is expected to assess the mental health systems including the legal, policy and administrative environment to identify areas for reforms.  

In addition, the team was urged to consider the changing societal dynamics and associated threats to mental well-being such as substance abuse, gambling, sexual and gender-based violence, cyberbullying, child abuse and neglect.

Depression is the most common mental illness worldwide.

The World Health Organization 2014 report ranked Kenya fourth in Africa with 1.9 million people affected by the condition.

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