Kenya launches QualityRights Initiative to promote mental health care

Nairobi Thursday November 21, 2019 – The First National Mental Health Conference kicked off today in Nairobi with the launch of a QualityRights initiative to improve access to quality mental health services and promote the rights of people with mental health conditions.

The initiative was launched by the Principal Secretary for Health Susan Mochache amid revelation that the country is witnessing an unprecedented rate of suicide deaths and increasing burden due to substance use disorders even among children and adolescents.

“The situation is compounded by the pervasive culture of denial, silence and stigma that surrounds mental health,” the PS noted at the opening of the conference.

She  revealed that in Kenya, mental illnesses are a significant cause of morbidity, with an estimated 25 percent of outpatients and up to 40 percent  of in-patients suffering from these conditions, noting that Mental health is not just a duty of Government and Ministry of Health but for everyone and raised the need to adopt an all-inclusive, inter-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach that is critical in addressing the social determinants of mental health.

“Persons with mental illnesses are often stereotyped, feared or shunned by the society. These negative attitude has prevented many from seeking timely care, and ultimately hindered them from realizing their dreams and achieving their full potential,”she said.

She called upon the County Governments, with technical support from the Ministry of Health to accelerate the integration of mental health services at all levels of the health system, with particular focus on primary health care, community health services, school health programs and promotion of self-care.

The PS also urged the stakeholders to scale up research and surveillance on mental health to inform targeted interventions and urged the delegates to raise the priority accorded to mental health and call for efforts to increase parity of resources allocated to it with physical health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Country representative Rudi Eggers noted that the world is accepting the concept of UHC and mental health must be a part of it to ensure access to quality and affordable treatment.

“WHO  has established the QualityRights initiative, a global initiative to improve the quality of care provided by mental health services and promote human rights of people with psychosocial, intellectual and cognitive disabilities,” said Eggers

The QualityRights initiative will improve quality of care and human rights in inpatient and outpatient mental health services, create community based and recovery oriented mental health and related services  that respect and promote human rights .

It will also  develop a movement of people with mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities to provide mutual support, conduct advocacy and influence police making processes as well as reform nation policies and legislation in line with international human rights standards.

The Chairperson on the Parliamentary Health Committee Sabina Chege, who was also present said that part of the money in the supplementary budget will be channeled towards the funding of the mental healthcare facilities.

“We need to look at the financing of the patients, how much is NHIF paying for the patients and are there enough facilities and personnel to take care of the patients,” Chege argued.

She  encouraged Kenyans to talk about the mental health issue and support the victims that openly come out to seek help and refrain from stigmatizing the patients.

“As a government we need to ensure that each of the level 5 hospitals in the country has a mental treatment section to help reach out more to the victims,” she noted.

Mental health is a key component of health which is defined by the World Health Organization as a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing and not mere absence of infirmity. It estimates that about eight hundred thousand people die annually due to suicide which account for a suicide death every 40 seconds.