County gov’t heightens mental health awareness drive – Kenya News Agency
The Kisumu County government created elaborate mechanisms to increase public awareness of mental illnesses in the area.
September is Suicide Prevention Month. Lakeside County, along with other partners, continues to educate the public about the signs and dangers that can lead to suicidal attempts.
Dr. Gregory Ganda CECM in Charge of Health stated that awareness creation is part and parcel of World Mental Day buildup activities. The health department has set up activities for community dialogue and mental screening at local level with the assistance of Community Health Workers.
‘Emergency Psychosocial Support will be available to the public through a call centre -EOC- with toll-free lines manned by personnel trained on how to handle patients who make call-ins for assistance,’ Dr. Ganda revealed.
He explained that this is a 30-day wellness program that addresses anxiety and depression, which are major contributors in suicide and mental health problems.
Dr. Ganda believes that patients and the general public will have easy access to information and will be made aware of their mental status by a team consisting of psychiatrists, counsellors, and CHVs.
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Referral Hospital, (JOORTH), Kisumu County Referral Hospital, (KCRH), and the Kenya Red Cross will jointly undertake the drive, he said.
‘We have reliable and responsive Mental Health Focal Persons-MHFP-at every Sub-County Level across the county,’ he said adding that CHVs will be trained to increase the number of caregivers and also act as focal persons in the wards.
The County Health Department is currently in advanced planning stages to implement the National Suicide Prevention Strategy 2020-2126. This includes the creation of working groups, institution-based approaches, which include media, CSOs, MDAs.
Dr Ganda revealed that the Kenya Mental Health Action Plan 2022-2026 is being developed in line with the Kenya Mental Health Action Plan 2020-2125. In addition, plans are being made to implement the essential contents of Mental Health Act 2022 pending its gazettement.
Caren Oreng, the Counsel-Psychologist at TINADA Youth Organization said that they specifically deal with psychological issues, help people air their mental issues affecting them, and guide them to see and think positively however bad it might be in their everyday life.
Oreng says that most people with suicidal thoughts have mental illness. They could also be suffering from personality disorder, mental depression, psychosis, and other mental disorders. Sometimes they feel exhausted.
Oreng, a champion-activist against suicide attempts and mental illness, has adopted two girls, aged 8 and 14, from the jaws f family-inflicted childhood traumas, neglect, and rejections.
Loice Omondi is the Kisumu County Mental Healthcare Champion and Ambassador based at JOORTH. She has encouraged victims to voice their opinions through radio talk shows in order to motivate others.
‘We need to clearly distinguish between mental health, mental disability and mental illness when we are seeking to adequately address them,’ said Loice, a runner-up in a Global Mental Campaign.
Dr. Ganda raised concerns about statistics and said that suicide is still a criminal offence. It is highly stigmatized and reported is poor. This is why surveys and police reports are not sufficient. But, there are serious efforts to make suicide a mental illness issue through legislative amendments and fighting stigmatization.
A Dashboard is being developed by the County to store integrated data. It will highlight the prevalence, age, gender, and demographics of mental patients.
It will be accomplished through the transmission data from different entities, such as schools or mental screening centres. There are high expectations that the data system can be unveiled during World Mental Health Day.
In light of the foregoing exercise, Rebecca Odhiambo, of Western Kenya LBQT Feminist Forum-WKLFF-, an Advocacy agency focused on building community among its members, has called for a standard tool that will not make the LGBTQI community feel it’s a mental issue or seems to be pathologized by it.
‘The LGBTQI community should have the ability to access the integrated data based on gender and sex,’ she recommended during an interactive session with other stakeholders held at KCRH on Wednesday.
Kisumu Counselors and Psychologists Association KCPA- Chairman Tom Onyango called to increase Psychological First Aid Trainings (PFA) as he stated that there are only 500 mental health professionals in the country.
The participants also called on the routine maintenance and repair of the Electroencephalogram-EEG-machine that’s based at JOORTH to swiftly detect abnormalities in the brain waves, or in the electrical activity of a patient’s brain.
Other multifaceted awareness approaches initiated by the County are the use of mainstream and social media platforms –Twitter, WhatsApp, Webinars, and Facebook-which are cost-effective and command high target audience reaches.
Distribution of brochures, the holding of walk procesions, talk shows, mental screenings, advocacy teams, and talk shows are all possible.
In their quest to achieve this year’s World Mental Health Prevention under the theme, ‘Make Mental Health Well-being a global health for all,’ the County has also mooted the distribution of brochures; holding walk processions, talk shows, and mental screenings and advocacy teams.
The county plans to build a fully-equipped Psychiatrist unit at the JOORTH. It will also give waivers to CHVs for training on mental health at Community Health Centres-CHC. Additionally, it will advocate for mental patients to have IDs in order to be eligible to receive medical coverage like Marwa, UHC, and NHIF.
Dr. Ganda exhorted stakeholders to ensure that coordinated health services are maintained through ambulances, emergency medical professionals, and linkages.