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Kenya joins the globe to mark mental health day

By Catherine Syengo Mutisya | October 9th 2016


Tomorrow, October 10, the world will commemorate the World Mental Health day. This is a day when those who appreciate the importance of good mental health take time to create mental health awareness and promote mental health. Kenya will join the world to commemorate the day led by the Ministry of Health at the Kenyatta National Hospital.

Good mental health is not the absence of mental illness but rather it is defined as “a state of well-being whereby individuals recognise and realise their abilities, are able to cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to their communities. The absence of good mental health or deterioration of one’s mental health therefore leads to mental health problems or mental illnesses.

The theme for this year is “Dignity in mental health – psychological and mental health first aid for all.” We are all aware about physical health First Aid but most of us are not aware of psychological or Mental Health First Aid and what to do when faced with somebody whose behaviour has changed, or their thinking is not what is expected or their mood is low or high.

Mental Health First Aid is a training programme that teaches members of the public how to help a person developing a mental health problem (including a substance use problem), experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. Like traditional First Aid, Mental Health First Aid does not teach people to treat or diagnose mental health or substance use conditions. Instead, the training teaches people how to offer initial support until appropriate professional help is received or until the crisis resolves.

Mental Health First Aid entails being able to approach and access the distressed person, listen without being judgmental, give support and information, encourage appropriate professional help and encourage other supports. Psychological First Aid on the other hand is an approach for assisting people in the immediate aftermath of disaster to reduce initial distress and to foster short and long-term adaptive functioning.

It involves contacting the survivors and engaging them, providing safety and comfort for them, stabilising them as you gather the necessary information. Practical assistance, which includes linking them with other services and helping survivors connect with social supports in addition to providing them with coping information, goes a long way in assisting those involved in disasters

Everybody should learn how to provide basic psychological and Mental Health First Aid so that they can provide support to distressed individuals in the same way as they do in physical health crises

The Kenya Mental Health Policy whose goal is “To attain the highest standards of mental health in Kenya” was launched in May this year and the national and the county governments are implementing it. This policy gives directions on Mental Health Leadership and Governance, the needed human resources, financing of Mental Health promotion services, Substance Use Management, Mental Health Services, Mental Health Products and Technologies including essential medicines, Mental Health Information System (MHIS) and Research, Mental Health Infrastructure, Advocacy and Partnership, Mental Health and Vulnerable Groups and finally Mental Health and the socio-cultural perspective.

If we all take up our roles and responsibilities as stipulated in the policy, then the objectives of this policy, which include strengthening effective leadership and governance for mental health, ensuring access to comprehensive, integrated and high quality, promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative mental health care services at all levels of healthcare, implementing strategies for promotion of mental health, prevention of mental disorders and substance use disorders and strengthening mental health systems, then we will all attain the highest standards of mental health in Kenya.

We should all remember that there is no health without mental health and so no one can claim to be healthy if they do not have good mental health!

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