Shortage of mental health specialists has been identified as a major impediment in addressing the rising cases of mental illness in the Country.
Kisumu Governor, Prof. Anyang Nyong’o, said despite the growing number of people suffering from mental illness, the country lacked enough personnel to deal with the problem.
The country, he said, had about 500 mental health specialists spread across government and private health facilities, who are not enough to serve the growing population.
Speaking during the World Mental Day celebrations in Kisumu, Nyong’o called for inclusion of mental health in the primary health care programs, to help address the existing gaps.
The Covid-19 pandemic, he noted, has further exacerbated the mental health problem in the country, with more people falling into depression.
“This calls for the need to discuss more on our level of preparedness to deal with psychological issues of all magnitude, arising out of disease outbreaks,” he said.
This, he added, called for partnerships between the National Government, County Governments and other stakeholders, to ensure that the mental health situation in the country, does not get out of hand.
Kisumu Women Representative, Rosa Buyu, said women have been worst hit by the mental illness situation in the country, calling for concerted efforts to include them in all health care programs.
“Whenever there is a mental illness case in the family, more often than not, it is women who bear the brunt. They take up the responsibility of caring for these patients, further straining them,” she said.
Women, she added, must be given psychosocial support at the same time empowered, during this pandemic, to help address the rising cases of mental illness.
Dr. Frank Njenga, Advisor to the President on Mental Health, said the government has made great strides in reversing the mental health numbers in the country.
Njenga who chaired the Taskforce on mental health in the country, said a Report documenting the situation, challenges and recommendations, has been presented to the President.
The Report, he said, calls for inclusion of mental illness patients in National and County Government health programs, to help lower the prevalence of the disease. He challenged Kenyans to embrace mental illness patients, saying the move was critical in enhancing their healing.
Njenga further called for allocation of adequate resources through the health budget to help contain the disease.