Prioritise mental health, urges First Lady Margaret Kenyatta

Friday, July 30th, 2021 00:00 |
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta cuts a cake during the opening of Chiromo Hospital Group’s Bustani Level 5 Hospital in Nairobi, yesterday. Looking on are Health CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi and hospital chairman Dr Frank Njenga Photo/PD/PSCU

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has  appealed for greater national focus on mental illnesses by stakeholders in the health sector. 

She said mental health should be given the same priority as other medical conditions noting that, with proper attention, mental illnesses are treatable.

“It (mental sicknesses) can be treated and many people we know have recovered enough to lead healthy lives.

Yet, too many individuals are being left to deal with these issues on their own, and many face complicating life circumstances such as drug and alcohol addiction, confinement or abandonment.

We must do a better job. We must not accept this,” said First Lady Margaret Kenyatta. 

The recent escalation in the number of Kenyans affected by mental illnesses, especially during the current coronavirus pandemic, she observed, makes the case for urgent attention.

As part of the renewed approach, the First Lady advised stakeholders to aim at providing greater access to quality mental health treatment, appropriate medical and psychosocial support. 

The First Lady spoke yesterday during celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of Chiromo Hospital Group and official opening of Chiromo Bustani Level 5 Hospital in Nairobi. Chiromo Bustani is a new mental hospital in the city. 

She hailed the Chiromo Hospital Group for its sustained commitment to mental health in the country, saying the experience and knowledge gained by the hospital over the years should be leveraged to expand mental health provision.

“In the conversation today, we have learned some very important facts about these illnesses that we probably did not know 25 years ago when this institution first started.

She added: “We can now use this knowledge to implement better policies, implement better treatment modalities and scale up interventions that will support a reliable mental care system.”

The First Lady observed that mental health was a growing global and national concern, noting that the rising number of cases had severly affected communities and households across the country.

Despite the challenges faced in the provision of mental healthcare in the country, the First Lady applauded efforts being made by the government and partners to ensure the services are expanded, and called for more awareness creation.

Public awareness, Mrs Kenyatta noted, could change negative perceptions around mental illnesses, citing her experience in maternal and child health  advocacy through the Beyond Zero Initiative.

“One of the ways we can change the misguided perceptions is through more public awareness.I know heightened advocacy and awareness works through my own work in Beyond Zero highlighting maternal and child health,” she said.

“We also have many great examples of how advocacy works through joint collaboration, through the media and community support.” 

Once again, the First Lady reiterated her commitment to continue advocating for mental health and assured her support for the global ‘Tufunguke’ campaign which is encouraging people to open up about their mental illnesses.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Mercy Mwangangi said mental illnesses were a major challenge and welcomed the private sector support in government efforts to expand mental healthcare.

Chiromo Hospital Group chairman Dr Frank Njenga said the 580-bed capacity hospital handles an average of 100 cases daily.

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