First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has appealed for a greater national focus on mental illnesses by stakeholders in the health sector.
The First Lady said mental health should be given the same priority as other medical conditions noting that, with proper attention, mental illnesses are treatable.
“Mental sicknesses can be treated and many people we know have recovered enough to lead healthy lives,” she said.
"Yet, too many individuals are being left to deal with these issues on their own, and many face complicating life circumstances like drug and alcohol addiction, confinement, or abandonment. We must do a better job. We must not accept this."
She observed that the recent escalation in the numbers of Kenyans affected by mental illnesses, especially during the current coronavirus pandemic, makes the case for urgent attention.
As part of the renewed approach, the First Lady advised stakeholders to aim at providing greater access to quality mental health treatment, appropriate medical and psychosocial support.
The First Lady spoke during celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of Chiromo Hospital Group and the official opening of Chiromo Bustani Level 5 Hospital in Nairobi.
She hailed Chiromo Hospital Group for their sustained commitment to mental health saying, the experience and knowledge gained by the hospital over the years should be leveraged to expand mental health provision in the country.
“In the conversation today, we have learned some very important facts about these illnesses that we probably did not know 25 years ago when this institution first started. We can now use this knowledge to implement better policies, implement better treatment modalities and scale up interventions that will support a reliable mental care system,” she said.
She observed that mental health was a growing global and national concern noting, that the rising number of cases were ravaging communities and households across Kenya.
“We all know of, or have heard of, someone who has battled with mental illness. This is a signal to our nation that we must do whatever it takes to heighten our efforts to create awareness about mental diseases,” she said.
Despite the challenges faced in the provision of mental healthcare in the country, the First Lady applauded efforts being made by the government and partners to ensure the services are expanded and called for more awareness creation.
“We have made progress in learning about mental diseases in the last few years so that we understand them more scientifically. We need to be aware of the cost of untreated mental illness; the lost school days, lost workdays, dropout, marital distress, and also lost opportunity cost — the economic effects of individuals who are not functioning at full capacity,” she said.
Public awareness, she noted, could change negative perceptions around mental illnesses.
Health CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi, who also spoke at the launch event, said mental illnesses were a major challenge and welcomed the private sector’s support to expand mental healthcare in the country.
Dr Frank Njenga, the chair of the Chiromo Hospital Group, said the hospital handles an average of 100 cases daily.