Kenya has little provision for mental health.
Despite having a mental health programme, with a focus on community mental health care, the government only spends 0.01% of its health budget on mental health.
This means that there is only one psychiatrist for every 500,000 people. Only a third of these psychiatrists work in the public sector, the rest only take on private patients at great expense.
There is general health insurance available from the government but this only covers hospital bed charges and is only for people in employment, meaning that this support is inappropriate for the treatment of poor mentally ill people in their communities. Also, there is no disability benefit available for people suffering from a mental illness.
When BasicNeeds started workin Kenya in 2005 there were no community care facilities for people with mental illnesses and also no regular training for local health care professionals.
Obviously, mental health care in Kenya is very inaccessible for poor mentally ill people.
From a small pilot project in Kangemi informal settlements in Western part of Nairobi, BasicNeeds programme currently has projects in 9 districts spread over four out of the eight provinces. These are Nairobi West, Kiambu West, Nyeri North, Nyeri South, Laikipia East, Laikipia North and Meru South.
Working in partnership with the government ministries of health and local government authorities a programme of training has been initiated for general health staff. Traditional healers have received training in diagnosis and treatment support. As a result we have found they refer mentally ill people they cannot help to the clinic.
The pilot project in Kangemi informal settlement successfully integrated mental health services in to the existing primary health care system.
A network of Community Health Volunteers has been formed of individuals who support the identification and referral process. The Community Health Volunteers provide a crucial link between the household and the clinic, providing home support. They also raise awareness among the general community about mental illness.
The best way of reducing stigma is to demonstrate people with mental illness or epilepsy can carry out productive tasks and contribute economically to their family income.
Stabilised people with mental illness or epilepsy are encouraged to go back to work or learn a new skill. Forming or joining self help groups not only provides therapy and support but allows participation in income generating activities. Each new group elects officials, develops a constitution and registers with the appropriate local government ministry.
BasicNeeds has supported the formation of several groups who are now involved in various income generating activities such as poultry and pig rearing, egg selling, farming dairy goats, soap making and the production of craft and bead products.
Self help groups have been linked to other resource organisations such as government livestock and agriculture departments, gender and social departments and children and youth departments. All these departments are involved in group development and registration and provide access to national poverty reduction funding.
BasicNeeds, through simple animation techniques, has provided opportunities for people with mental illness and epilepsy to voice their needs, concerns and aspirations.
The empowerment of people with mental illness and epilepsy enables advocacy activities to commence to change the attitude of communities and the government. People with mental illness and epilepsy use the power of their collective voice to advocate for their right to mental health services in their communities.
Since implementation in Kenya started in 2005 BasicNeeds has built up a strong evidence base of data which not only records how many beneficairies are involved in the programme but how their lives have been changed.
If you are interested to learn more about our programme please contact Joyce Kingori. If you would like to make a donation please click here.
Joyce Kingori, Programme Manager
BasicNeeds UK in Kenya, P.O.BOX 14590-00100(GPO), Nairobi, Kenya.
Tel: +254 20 2426606 or +254 20 3001180
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