The country lost Sh62.2 billion due to mental health conditions, which is equivalent to 0.6 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2020 after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, State Department for Public Service Principal Secretary Amos Njoroge Gathecha has said.
Gatheca who was speaking Monday when he officially opened the Public Service Counsellors` Workshop in Naivasha noted that mental health challenges significantly affected productivity within the public service.
He noted that according to the Kenya Mental Health Investment Case (2021), Absenteeism and presentism accounted for the largest share of the fore mentioned annual cost at 49 per cent and 30 per cent respectively, while total health care expenditure represented only 9 per cent of all mental health-related costs.
“This clearly demonstrates the multi-dimensional impact of mental health on Kenyan economy,” the PS said.
He said in the civil service, approximately 5, 000 civil servants (including those working in the disciplined forces) used to be diagnosed with mental illness per annum before Covid came but this number has since gone up to 13, 000 owing to the economic conditions existing in the country right now.
The participants were drawn from seven Government ministries but the PS said professional counselors are normally located at the Public Service and ministry headquarters and are normally dispatched to wherever their services are needed.
“We are keenly looking at the disciplined forces who are prone to mental illness because of the nature of their work,” Gathecha said and added that to meet this felt need, they have instructed the Public Service Commission (PSC) to employ more counselors and advertisements will be out soon.
He observed that the State Department is implementing various preventative and promotive measures to promote mental health and wellbeing of public servants as envisaged in the Kenya Mental Health Policy (2015-2030) and Kenya Mental Health Action Plan (2021-2025).
Gathecha stated that these strategies include: Strengthening of counselling and wellness services; development and rolling of essential counselling skills program for capacity building public service mental health champions and establishment of public service counselling helpline.
Other measures include Public Service mental health awareness campaigns, development of Public Service Psychological Assessment Centre (PSPAC) and establishment of counselling and wellness services in Huduma Centres.
The PS noted that the last financial year 2022/23, the state department provided psycho-education to 12,532 public servants; launched the public service mental health champions programme on February 24, this year.
He said the Department also built capacity for 510 mental health champions in Ministries, County Governments Departments, Agencies and Sagas (MCDAS) and established counselling and wellness services in four (4) Huduma centres at Telposta, Kibra, Thika and Kisumu.
Gatheca added that during the same period, the Government also established the public service tele-counselling helpline number, 0206900030 which saw 413 public servants supported and also initiated the development of Public Service Psychological Assessment Centre and recruited and deployed counsellors in Ministries, Departments and Counties.
Gathecha said this is because high quality of mental health services in the public service is dependent on availability of competent and motivated counsellors.
To this end, he said, the State Department has invested in provision of continuous training and supervision of counsellors as a means to ensure that their practice is informed by current trends and approaches in the mental health field.
“In view of this, the department organized this workshop to provide a platform for counsellors in the service to receive emotional, professional and technical support from senior practitioners in the profession,” he stated.
The PS said the workshop aimed at providing all counsellors in the service with a platform to share their professional experiences, emerging legal, policy and professional issues in counselling field including evidence-based and innovative techniques and practices.
The government introduced Counselling Services in 2006 as part of reforms in the public sector aimed at improving the productivity of employees by enhancing their mental health and well-being.
Counselling at the workplace can address a wide range of issues faced by employees including, stress and burnout, relationships issues, work-life balance, grief and loss, trauma, substance abuse among others.
Consequently, the PS said the ministry will hasten registration of the counsellors with the already operationalized counsellors board that will seek to regulate the provision operation of counselling services in the country.
So far, there are over 50 counsellors employed and spread across seven ministries with the Ministry of Public Service, Gender and Affirmative Action working with Public Service Commission (PSC) to employ more to cover all 22 ministries in coming months in a bid to address rising cases of mental illness among civil servants.
Via Kenya News Agency