Kenya: Government, through National Youth Council, calls on young people to speak out on mental health issues

Nairobi – The government is now calling on Kenyans and especially young people with mental health issues to speak out and seek help without fear of being stigmatized.

National Youth Council (NYC) chief executive officer (CEO) Roy Sasaka said there was a need to raise awareness of mental health issues so that more people spoke out.

“We recognize that everyone faces additional challenges in the face of COVID-19. No population is immune from this. This is why we are raising awareness in the country about mental health. People are asking for help navigating the uncharted waters of life in a pandemic, especially those plagued by anxiety and depression, ”he said.

Capital FM operates an online platform known as Bonga which encourages people with mental health issues to speak out.

As the world celebrated World Suicide Prevention Day on September 11 last year, the government announced plans to set up a tele-counseling and tele-psychiatry center at Mathare Hospital to help Kenyans with mental health problems.

Chief Administrative Secretary of Health Rashid Aman said the center will have a toll-free number that will be operational day and night to help even those who have been mentally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This 24/7 facility will allow adequate use of scarce human resources for mental and psychosocial support. Callers will receive emergency and non-urgent support. The hotline will be operational and will continue to be operational after the call. COVID-19 pandemic to address all the mental challenges we face as a nation, ”said Aman.

He further announced that the government had already developed a National Suicide Prevention Strategy Program 2021-2026, highlighting the measures that need to be taken to prevent suicide in Kenya, as cases increased by 58% between 2008 and 2017.

“The increase in reported suicide cases in Kenya shows the urgent need to prevent suicide in Kenya. The World Population Review ranks Kenya 114th out of 175 countries with the highest suicide cases. In addition, the suicide rate in Kenya is 6.5 suicides per 100,000 people, ”Aman said.

ICT Ministry Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Nadia Abdala said people must accept that mental health is an illness like other illnesses.

She called on Kenyans to take advantage of government initiatives that tackle the threat, saying more lives will be saved if more people share what they are going through in order to get help.

“It is estimated that only 10 to 15% of young people with mental health problems receive help from existing mental health services according to the 2005 World Health Organization survey. need outside help and are trying to solve their problems on. Therefore, young people need to be empowered by providing them with information about mental health problems and opportunities for support and treatment, ”she said.

They spoke at Two Rivers Mall on Monday, during the launch of Mental Health Awareness Week by the National Youth Council (NYC) which seeks to educate young people about mental issues and how they can be helped.

In partnership with UNODC, UNICEF, Safaricom, Centum Investments, East African Breweries Limited, Spread Truth Africa, Compassion International, among other partners, NYC will host Mental Health Wellness Week February 22-26, 2021 at Two Rivers Mall, to build resilience in mental health in youth through sports and culture, to generate realistic and impactful solutions to the various socio-economic challenges facing young people.

Some of the challenges that will be addressed include anxiety related to unemployment, substance abuse, anger, depression, financial stress, gender-based violence, self-harm, among others.

The National Youth Council is a state-owned enterprise within the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth, which came into being through the enactment of the NYC Act (2009) as the official voice of the youth.

Its mandate is to harness and advocate for the voice of young people to inform government policies and legislation and to regulate and coordinate youth activities and initiatives, for the empowerment, inclusion and participation of young people in all settings. spheres of life.

On July 20 of last year, the Mental Health Task Force called on the government to declare mental health a national disaster in the country.

Task Force Chair Dr Frank Njenga said mental health issues run deep and it is important to be given the attention they deserve.

The task force further recommended that an independent mental health commission be formed to monitor people’s happiness levels and provide a report annually.

“We recommend an equally decisive statement from our government which recognizes that too many people are dying either by suicide or because of gender-based violence and we suggest that such a decision will save and may save lives,” said Njenga.

The Njenga-led task force also recommended that mental health services be well funded by the government to encourage many people to open up and share their problems without fear of how much it will cost them to treat the disorders.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has repeatedly said mental health problems have increased since March when the coronavirus was confirmed in the country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the formation of the task force last year in June amid growing depression and mental illness that has led to numerous cases of murder and suicide.

The task force was commissioned to assess Kenya’s mental health systems, including the legal, policy and administrative environment, to identify areas that could benefit from reform, for optimal delivery.

Depression is the most common mental illness in the world.

The 2014 World Health Organization report ranked Kenya fourth in Africa with 1.9 million people with the disease.

According to Kenya’s Mental Health Policy (2015-2030), 20-25% of outpatients seeking primary health care had symptoms of mental illness.