Normalise seeking mental health care services, Kenyan doctors told

A doctor collects blood samples from a patient. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Kenyan doctors have been urged to normalise seeking mental health services when faced with challenges in their line of work.

Speaking during a webinar titled 'Burnout Among Healthcare Workers', Dr Edith Kwobah, a Consultant psychiatrist, said medics are facing challenges such as; shortages, inadequate support by management and poor infrastraucture, while in the line of duty.

She says that health care workers should work together to ensure workplaces have policies on mental health.

Additionally, Kwobar, who is also the head of mental health at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, encouraged health care practitioners to have social support systems that would help in time of need. 

"Even soldiers need a quiet place to rest," Kwobah told healthcare workers attending the webinar on Tuesday evening.

On his part, Davji Atella, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) Secretary General says burnout and moral injury are some of the leading causes of mental  illness  and suicide among healthcare workers. 

"The acute shortage of healthcare workers has worsened an already dire situation where people work without adequate rest and preventable patient deaths lead to depression among the cohort," said the Secretary General.

He added; "Inability to get a safe place debrief without stigma has made thousands suffer in silence while others have resorted to alcohol and drug abuse."

Already, KMPDU says doctors across the country will go on strike from January 6, 2023, if the government fails to fulfil agreements in a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) covering the 2017-2021 period.

Basic salary adjustments, creation of call rooms, posting of medical interns, employment of more doctors and provision of working tools are among the unmet grievances highlighted by the union. 

"We must hire enough workers to enable them to all get annual leave days and sick leave days. This will go a long way combined with putting in place programmes and safe spaces for sick caregivers to seek treatment. It also important to pay salaries on time," said Davji.