Government to set up toll-free lines to prevent cases of suicide

Entrance to Mathari National Referral and Teaching Hospital in Nairobi. [File, Standard]

The Ministry of Health has hatched various intervention measures to curb the alarming cases of suicide in the country.

Addressing the press during the daily Covid-19 status update, Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Dr Rashid Aman said Kenya was commemorating the World Suicide Prevention Day-construction of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) to prevent deaths by suicide.

And in this regard, the Ministry of Health (MoH) is developing the National Suicide Prevention Strategy and Program (2021-2026) to combat the suicide deaths in the country. This initiative will be formed in conformity with the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO). But in the short run, the CAS revealed that the country had resorted to psychosocial support to alleviate the problem, especially during Covid-19.

He said that most people feel signs of depression which may not necessarily call for alarm.

Dr Aman said: “During a crisis like Covid-19, most people will experience degrees of stress such as the feeling of anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, difficulty in sleeping, fatigue, irritability, aches and pains…this is normal for the majority, it will improve and go away over time..”

“However, some of those affected may suffer from serious mental or emotional distress, including worsening of existing mental illness or substance use problems or acute stress disorder.

He added that MoH has earmarked two initiatives to assist those battling mental illnesses during Covid-19 period. They include the telepsychiatry and tele-counselling services that will be offered toll-free round the clock.

“I’m made to understand that here at the ministry and at Mathare, we are considering setting up a Tele-counselling and telepsychiatry centres here which will also have a call centre that will have suicide prevention numbers that Kenyans can call into to receive counselling and guidance and direction and instructions on where to seek appropriate care for the condition,” said Dr Aman.

Dr Aman revealed that already Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital, which handles mental cases, has identified offices where call centres will be established.

He said the suicide prevention hot-line will remain operational even after the pandemic. The hot-line will enable those seeking help to make calls or use text messages when engaging the specialists.

“Trained mental health personnel including nurses and doctors have been identified who will be on call and will work in shifts in these Tele counselling and telepsychiatry centres,” said Dr Aman.

In June 2019 Madaraka Day celebrations, President Uhuru Kenyatta raised alarm on the need to set up intervention measures to prevent rampant suicide cases in the country. WHO estimates that Kenya registers over 300 cases of suicide annually.