THE STATE OF MENTAL HEALTH IN KENYA

(Dr. Kamau Kanyoro presents a paper on 'state of mental health in kenya' at UON Research Week)

This is a paper that was presented by Dr. Kamau Kanyoro at the 2018 UON Research Week - Victimology Victim and Support Conference.

Dr. Kamau Kanyoro is a Lecturer JKUAT, Clinical Psychiatrist/ Consultant Mathari Teaching and Referral Hospital. The aim of the paper is  to highlight the critical importance of psychologist and counselors in management of mental health and create awareness that mental illnesses are as much health disorders as any other

Mental illness in Kenya and Africa as a whole is a stigma that has caused many people to suffer in silence.

In Africa mental issues are attributed to either witchcraft or spiritual problem. Government statistics indicate that at least one in every four {1:4} Kenyans suffers from a mental illness at one point in their lives; this is about 11.5 million people.

Kenya has only 88 psychiatrists,427 psychiatrist nurses who are trained to handle mental illness, about 10 medical social workers and a few mental psychologists and counselors who are competent to handle mental issues,

Budgetary allocation for mental health is only 0.5% of health budget thus leaving the mental equation completely overstretched.  Some of the major disorders in Kenya are mental, behavioral and personality disorders

Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors. Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviors.

  • Confused/slow thinking
  • sadness/irritability{prolonged depression}
  • feelings of extreme low or high
  • excessive fear, worries and anxiety
  • social withdrawal
  • dramatic changes in eating /sleeping
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Sex drive changes
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

Mental health is a common condition that has affected even some of the most iconic people in the world like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Isaac Newton among others.

The mental health structure of rank starts with

  1. The psychiatrist who is a medical doctor with specialization in psychiatry and prescribes medication.
  2. This is followed by psychiatrist nurses who execute psychiatrist orders,
  3. Then psychologists and counselors who help in the management of patients before and after medication. They offer professional in put {therapies} to the patients which allows them to gain insight of their condition and how to live with it. They also provide mental and behavioral services where they focus on prevention and promotion of psychological well-being. They also assists in the diagnosis and treatment of patients where they utilize interventions such as psychotherapy behavioral techniques, biofeedback which helps individuals make behavior changes.

In Kenya psychiatrists and support professionals like psychologist and counselors are very few who are skilled and trained in mental health.

The lack of ability to attract and retain mental health professionals is evident in a number of graduate schools in Kenya. It is a universal held principle that psychologists and counselors are management pillars of mental health.