By Shadrack Nyakoe
Kenya National Commission on National Human Rights (KNCHR) in partnership with mental health civil society organizations on October 10 marked World Mental Health Day with the theme “Mental Health for All: Greater Investment, Greater Access”.
On a virtual meeting held over the weekend, participants drawn from Mental Health Network, KNCHR, Watu Health Innovation summit amongst others called on the government to increase allocation to health budget to 15%.
According to research, it was revealed that mental health was underfunded at 0.01% of the total expenditure in health despite the fact that mental health accounts for 13% of the entire disease burden in Kenya.
They also claimed that there is shortage of mental health workers which is currently at 0.19% per 100,000 population in Kenya.
The organizations further said serious interventions on mental health have to be taken with the national and county and national governments implored to establish a separate budget for mental health and work to progressively to increase the mental health budget so as to ease the mental health burden in the country.
Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the rate of mental health amongst the aged. The groups also want the county governments to increase funding for mental health to ensure accessible and quality community-based care and strengthen psychosocial support and intellectual disabilities.
Mourine Gikonyo of Speak Mind Foundation in Nairobi called on the national government to invest in wellness and recreational facilities and programs as a preventive measure.
“The young population due to unemployment, social media exposure, human rights violations, drug abuse and poverty are the most affected. I would like to call on the national and county government to fund community support services to support independent living,” she said.
She added that mental health should be included in the Universal Health Coverage package.
Kevin Otieno Mabinda of Okoa Vijana Initiative in Mombasa called on the parliament to fast track the amendment of the Mental Health Act by removing provisions on involuntary hospitalization and introducing explicit provisions fully recognizing the legal capacity of persons with mental illness, psychosocial and intellectual disabilities.
“Global denial and failure to invest in mental health have limited individuals’ rights to wellness and health which has been unearthed and further exacerbated by Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.