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Kenya pledges investments to boost action on mental health crisis

NAIROBI, (The Southern African Times) – Kenya will increase budgetary allocation toward prevention and clinical management of mental illnesses that have spiked amid substance abuse and lifestyle changes, officials said Monday.

Rashid Aman, chief administrative secretary at the Ministry of Health, said that a policy and legislative framework is already in place to facilitate investments in mental health care.

“The government and other stakeholders have adopted a strategy to promote financing and investments required to scale up access to quality and affordable mental health care services countrywide,” said Aman.

He spoke in Nairobi during a virtual multisectoral forum on Kenya’s mental health investment attended by senior policymakers, development partners, experts and advocates.

Aman said that Kenya is committed to plugging the funding gap that has derailed access to quality treatment for citizens suffering from mental illnesses including depression and bipolar disorder.

He said that stress linked to modern lifestyles, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence and abject poverty have worsened the burden of mental diseases in the country.

According to Aman, in Kenya, one out of four people who turn up at a health care facility have a mental disorder like anxiety, schizophrenia and depression yet they are mostly unaware of their condition.

He said that a presidential taskforce has revitalized efforts to scale up funding, public awareness and novel clinical interventions to reduce the burden of mental illnesses in Kenya.

Simon Njuguna Kahonge, director of Division of Mental Health at the Ministry of Health, said the country has adopted international best practices to boost response to mental disorders linked to genetics, social and environmental factors.

Kahonge said the government is leveraging on data, research, telemedicine, robust financing and policy reforms to promote access to quality and affordable mental health care services.

He said that other interventions the government has prioritized include grassroots advocacy to reduce stigma and discrimination affecting the mentally ill.

Legislative and policy reforms are in the works to address barriers in accessing mental health care services among vulnerable groups including youth, women, children and drug addicts, Kahonge said.

Sylvia Kasanga, nominated senator who is also sponsoring a bill to amend the Mental Health Act, said Kenya is focusing on legal interventions to boost investments in mental health care services in line with the universal health coverage agenda.

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