First Lady Margaret Kenyatta on Thursday appealed for greater national focus on mental illnesses by stakeholders in the health sector.
The First Lady 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 like drug and alcohol addiction, confinement or abandonment. We must do a better job. We must not accept this,” First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said.
She observed that the recent escalation in the numbers of Kenyans affected by mental illnesses, especially during the current Coronavirus pandemic, 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.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta spoke during celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of Chiromo Hospital Group and the official opening of Chiromo Bustani Level 5 Hospital in Nairobi. Chiromo Bustani is a new mental hospital in Nairobi County.
The First Lady hailed Chiromo Hospital Group for their sustained commitment to mental health in Kenya saying, the experience and knowledge gained by the hospital over the years should be leveraged to expand mental health provision in the country.
“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.
“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,” First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said.
She observed that mental health was a growing global and national concern noting, that the rising number of cases were ravaging communities and households across the country.
“We all know of, or have heard of, someone who has battled with mental illness. This is a signal to our nation that we must do whatever it takes to heighten our efforts to create awareness about mental diseases,” the First Lady advised.
Despite the challenges faced in the provision of mental healthcare in the country, the First Lady applauded efforts being made by Government and partners to ensure the services are expanded, and called for more awareness creation.
“We have made progress in learning about mental diseases in the last few years, so that we understand them more scientifically.
“We need to be aware of the cost of untreated mental illness; the lost school days, lost work days, dropout, marital distress, and also lost opportunity cost—the economic effects of individuals who are not functioning at full capacity,” the First Lady advised.
Public awareness, First Lady Margaret 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. We also have many great examples of how advocacy works through joint collaboration, through the media and community support,” she said.
Once again, the First Lady reiterated her commitment to continue advocating for mental health and assured of her support for the global ‘Tufunguke’ campaign which is encouraging people to open up about their mental illnesses.
Health CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi, who also spoke at the launch event, said mental illnesses were a major challenge and welcomed the private sector’s support Government efforts to expand mental healthcare in the country.
On his part, Dr Frank Njenga, the Chairman of the Chiromo Hospital Group, who led several people to tell their success stories after receiving treatment at the facility, said the 580-bed capacity hospital handles an average of 100 cases daily.