Why Kenya needs to invest more on mental health

Monday, October 12th, 2020 00:00 |
Mathari Mental Hospital. Photo/Courtesy

Divina Kabalo

One is mentally healthy when he or she is able to make right decisions for society’s benefit and expectations.

A mentally fit person, for instance, cannot abandon work, end their education or commit suicide because of flimsy reasons.

As defined by the World Health Organisation, mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realises own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and contribute to the community (WHO, 2014).

Psychosocial support contributes to prevention of mental health challenges, provide healing and support to those who have illnesses to live lives with dignity. 

Mental health, like physical health, is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence to adulthood and old age.

Psychosocial and mental health wellbeing motivates the development of life skills, which enable individuals, families or communities to understand and engage with their environment and make healthy choices, which lead to hope for the future. 

People who are mentally healthy, impact the society positively and increase the productivity, improve the economic and their relationships.

It is important that mental health issues are taken seriously as they are important not only for individuals, families and communities but also for the society.

Many people have mental health issues and are not aware they can be helped.

On the other hand, lack of awareness, adequate personnel in mental health, finance and infrastructures, stigma and discrimination make it difficult to access the services. 

Children and youth, like adults, also experience mental health challenges. Prolonged stress, anxiety and fears that are brought by situations such as Covid-19.

Being forced to stay at home observing social distancing, curfew hours and nationwide closure of schools, have made people of all ages live with distress that affects mental health.

This resulted into violence, separation and divorce in families, early marriages and pregnancies among the youth, increase in juvenile delinquency, suicidal tendencies and other risk behaviours. This could be indication of mental challenges in the society. 

As much as the above-mentioned challenges affect mental health, they also affect the psychosocial wellbeing of the individuals.

As a result, children or youth who are not mentally healthy will not be able to study, and employees may not work well.

Some of the symptoms to look out for mentally challenged persons are talking about issues that are nonexistent; suddenly arrogance; not able to work; and self-isolation. When you see such signs, act fast. 

Meanwhile, family members and communities can provide support to those in need.

Currently, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, youth are now engaging in odd jobs to get money.

It is possible that some, including those who have become mothers or, are married, may not go back to school.

That, provides another reason on the need to reach out and inform the society about mental health so that challenges can be prevented, individuals can be healed, and others can be able to manage mental illnesses well. 

The world commemorated the World Mental Health Day on Saturday under the theme ‘Mental Health for All; Greater Investment’.

Kenya inaugurated mental health taskforce on December 11, whose key findings indicate Kenya has a high burden of mental illness due to ill health, psychosocial disability and premature mortality with huge gaps in access to care. The report was launched on July 7.

It is high time we invested on mental health at all level, from families and community to the national levels.

Mainstreaming psychosocial support into mental health at those levels will have a great contribution to prevention, healing and continuous support to the affected.

Investing into mental health has higher returns as a health nation health productivity, stable economy and social connections. — The writer is a reproductive health advocate

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