• The Health ministry has designated offices at the Mathari Teaching and Referral Hospital as a call centre to offer tele-counselling and psychiatric services.
• A suicide prevention hotline will be embedded in the call centre that will be equipped to make calls, answer messages and respond to calls from all parts of the country.
Kenyans will soon have a 24-hour access to mental health and psychological support through a toll-free line.
The Health ministry has designated offices at the Mathari Teaching and Referral Hospital as a call centre to offer tele-counselling and psychiatric services.
A suicide prevention hotline will be embedded in the call centre that will be equipped to make calls, answer messages and respond to calls from all parts of Kenya.
Those to benefit from the psychological support include persons in quarantine sites, healthcare workers, other frontline workers including morticians and people with Covid-19 and their families.
The others are patients in recovery, families of the bereaved and survivors of gender-based violence.
“During a crisis like Covid-19, most people will experience some degree of distress such as feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, sadness, difficulty in sleeping, fatigue, irritability or anger and or aches and pains,” Health CAS Rashid Aman said.
“Although individuals respond differently, this is normal and for the majority, it will improve and go away over time without any need for medical intervention.”
The CAS noted that some of those affected may suffer from serious mental or emotional distress while those with existing mental illness could suffer severe cases. Substance use problems or acute stress disorder could also rise.
“A public health approach is therefore needed to address the psychological and mental health consequences of Covid-19,” he said.
The facility will enable follow-up of people diagnosed with mental health or substance use disorders.
Nurses and doctors trained in mental health have been identified to run the call centre in shifts as they await the deployment of 40 psychologists to be recruited by the Public Service Commission.
The tele-counselling and tele-psychiatry centre will also deal with other mental health issues including attempted suicide, substance use disorders crisis such as a drug overdose, psychosis crisis and gender-based violence.
Kenyans will access rapid emergency services including ambulances for mental health cases.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-19 years. Globally, more than 800,000 people commit suicide annually.
The World Population Review ranks Kenya at position 114 among 175 countries with the highest suicide rate.
The suicide rate in the country is at about 6.4 suicides per 100,000 people, with 317 suicide cases reported every year.
The number of suicides in the country has increased in the last few years. A WHO report showed that the number of suicides reported in the country rose by 58 per cent between 2008 and 2017.
“The increased reported cases of suicide in Kenya shows the dire need for measures to prevent suicide,” according to the report.
(edited by o. owino)