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Home / Health & Science

Counsellors’ red flag on mental health

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy CYRUS OMBATI | Tue,Nov 05 2013 00:00:00 EAT
By CYRUS OMBATI | Tue,Nov 05 2013 00:00:00 EAT

By Cyrus Ombati

Kenya: A group of psychologists want the government to put in place measures to deal with the effects of disasters on the mental health of survivors.

The psychologists, who attended to survivors of the Westgate Mall terror attack, want a call centre with a toll free lifeline set up because people in need of counselling services are scattered all over Kenya.

“They can access help from psychologists trained in telephone counselling and risk management. This initiative will benefit people in all the 47 counties. Our experience is that most Kenyans who cannot afford to call will still find professional help,” said the psychologists in a report.

The group under the Kenya Psychological Association (KPA) warns the long-term mental effect of the terror attack, like many others before it, could be devastating unless proper counselling system is put in place.

The team was guided by Dr Gladys Mwiti, Sammy Wambugu and Dr Oscar Githua.

They added the survivors, their families and all those who experienced loss need committed follow-up to ensure recovery.

“There is need to put in place measures to ensure that we address the past array of psychological needs relating to terror and guarantee preparedness for the future,” the team added. The report covers Level 1 intervention – Psychological First Aid hence there is need for a follow-up of those affected by the attack.

“Peace is a factor in development. The insecurity, fear, hyper-vigilance, negative stereotypes and traumatic stress created by the Westgate attack will not go away for a long time, and have the capacity to weaken the national fabric of the nation.”

Recurring conflict

The report says survivors still require counselling and psychotherapy, and include people who have never completely healed following previous terror attacks, namely US Embassy bombing of 1998 and subsequent terrorist incidents that the country has experienced in the recent past.

It calls for the scale-up of the psychological and counselling services to Level 2 and Level 3 for the needy by sending them to accredited referral centres for a period of one year.

The report also recommends the crafting of communication intervention, with the aim of diffusing mistrust between Muslims and Christians, as it will ensure that the Westgate incident does not morph into permanent enmity and recurring conflict.

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