Mental Health Taskforce urges government to declare mental health a National Emergency Nairobi, Tuesday July 7, 2020

The Taskforce on Mental Health has recommended that mental illness should be declared a National Emergency of epidemic proportions, to prioritize mental health as a priority public health and socioeconomic agenda.

The Taskforce also recommended the establishment of a mental health commission and happiness, to advise, coordinate and continuously monitor the status of mental health, and report on the annual National Happiness Index.

The Taskforce was inaugurated on 11th December 2019, and comprised of a multi sectoral team from the Ministry of Health, and other agencies under the leadership of Dr. Frank Njenga.

The key findings of the Taskforce indicate that Kenya has a high burden of mental illness due to ill health, psychosocial disability and premature mortality with huge gaps in access to care.

Majority of Kenyans associate mental health and mental illness with negative narratives leading to low focus on the importance and benefits of mental health and wellbeing, the report says.

The contents of the report were revealed by the Cabinet for Health Mutahi Kagwe after the hand-over of the report by the taskforce team today at Afya House.

“The rising number of mental health related cases in the country, such as depression, and other mental illnesses, some of which ended up in suicide cases, have been a concern to the Government,” Mutahi said.

His Excellency the President ordered the formation of the task-force, with the primary mandate to, study the status of mental health in country, and recommend solutions to reform mental health systems.

In Kenya, it is estimated that one in every 10 people suffer from a common mental disorder. The number increases to one in every four people among patients attending routine outpatient services.

Depression and anxiety disorders are the leading mental illnesses diagnosed in Kenya, followed by substance use disorders. Among the different types of substances, alcohol contributes to the largest burden of substance use related illnesses in Kenya.  Of great concern alcohol abuse is most prevalent in the 18-29-year-old age group.