• Out of persons attending general medical facilities in Kenya, 25-40 per cent have symptoms of mental illness.
• Financing UHC should include establishment of support centres, training of post-trauma counsellors, increasing the number of trained psychiatric nurses.
Kenya has less than 500 psychiatrists against a population of close to fifty million. Four in five Kenyans who commit suicide are pushed to it by depression.
The prevalence rate of common mental illness in Kenya stands at 10.3 per cent with a prevalence rate of suicidal thoughts of 7.9 per cent. Out of persons attending general medical facilities in Kenya, 25-40 per cent have symptoms of mental illness; mostly depression and anxiety.
Many young people face challenges that result in long periods of stress that eventually lead to serious mental health ailments including depression. Sexual defilement, verbal abuse by their peers, bullying in school to relationship issues at the workplace are among the factors making young people vulnerable to mental illness.
Productivity in education and at the workplace depends on the health of the mind. Families are also forced to spend at the expense of other needs to treat mental issues. Addressing mental health, in general, has not got the priority it deserves. Trauma counselling and therapy are expensive even in public health facilities.
Financing of the Universal Health Coverage should include the establishment of support centres, training of post-trauma counsellors, increasing the number of trained psychiatric nurses, supporting the establishment of financial empowerment programmes and poverty reduction as well as equipping health facilities with anti-depressants drugs.
Kenya must also establish policies that address the integration of UHC and mental health. Policies should also ensure mental health education and support begins at an early age.
Society can also make a change by handling mental health issues with the seriousness they deserve.
Naya Kenya, Nairobi