• J&J will support the mental health agenda in the country including training psychiatric nurses.
• The company will also develop an approach for sustainable access to essential and innovative medicines to treat severe mental illness
Kenyans will now be able to access psychiatric services remotely through telemedicine in a new deal signed between the government and healthcare company Johnson & Johnson.
The new deal will also see Kenyans have access to quality mental healthcare services and drugs as part of the government efforts to tackle the rising burden of mental health in the country.
In the MoU, J&J will support the mental health agenda in the country, including training psychiatric nurses.
The company will also develop an approach for sustainable access to essential and innovative medicines to treat severe mental illness, focusing on Schizophrenia in the public sector.
Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel or behave clearly.
Even though the exact cause of the condition is not known, experts say a combination of genetics, environment and altered brain chemistry and structure may play a role.
“The Ministry of Health expresses its gratitude to Johnson & Johnson for partnering with the Kenyan government to tackle the mental health burden, manifested by growing suicide cases, gender-based violence and child abuse cases," Health PS Susan Mochache said.
"Collaboration with Johnson & Johnson touches on mental healthcare priority areas, and the ministry is optimistic that this partnership will bear demonstrable impact nationwide for the next five years," she added.
According to Johnson & Johnson country manager Queenter Owuonda the deal seeks to build on the achievements through human resource capacity building and improving access to services and products through technology among others.
Johnson & Johnson’s head of Government Affairs and Policy, sub- Saharan Africa Idah Asin, said the company will work towards supporting Kenya’s efforts to identify Schizophrenia, particularly in young adults, as this is the age around which Schizophrenia often starts.
“Identifying and clinically managing Schizophrenia in young adults remains a crucial pillar of Johnson &Johnson's contribution to broadening access to mental healthcare support,” Asin said.
The government has so far developed the Kenya Mental Health Action Plan to operationalise the Kenya Mental Health Policy.
The ministry also recently launched the suicide Prevention Strategy, which provides key interventions and whose implementation will lead to a reduction in suicide-related deaths.
The World Health Organisation factsheet 2021 indicates suicide is a leading cause of mortality, and among 15–19-year-olds, it remains the fourth leading cause of death.
According to health director general Patrick Amoth, there is scarcity of data on suicide in Kenya as a result of underreporting, which is associated with among other factors, criminalisation of suicide under the Penal Code leading to fear of stigma and persecution and lack of a formal data collection mechanism for suicide data.
“Families, friends, school friends, work colleagues and communities affected or bereaved by suicide or suicide attempts are often left without assistance. Silence and stigma prevent those in need from seeking help,” Amoth said.