One in four people in the world will be affected by mental disorders at some point in their lives according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Across the world, around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions thus placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
According to WHO, treatments for mental disorders are available, but nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional.
Stigma, discrimination, and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders, says the World Health Organization (WHO). Where there is neglect, there is little or no understanding. Where there is no understanding, there is neglect.
WHO estimates that about 800,000 people die by suicide each year.
WHO further estimates that between 10 and 20 percent of children and adolescents globally suffer from mental disorders like depression.
Symptoms of the disease include loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, inability to carry out daily duties, indecisiveness, restlessness, loss of energy, sleep problems, hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness.
These symptoms make depressed people suffer from low moods and begin having thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Currently, suicide is the leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-old people globally.
The number of mental disorder cases has risen exponentially in Kenya with official data indicating that approximately 20-25 percent of outpatients seeking primary healthcare present symptoms of mental illness at any one time.
But more shocking is that there are no sufficient qualified medical personnel and facilities to take care of this lot of patients.
A review of the Health ministry records by the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) reveals that as of 2016, there were only 88 psychiatrists – most of them located in Nairobi. In rural Kenya, the ratio of psychiatrists to citizens is 1:5,000,000 compared to 1:10,000, the globally accepted ratio.
The situation is even worse when it comes to psychology services in Kenya when one worker is faced with a ratio of 4.6 million patients instead of a recommended 15,000.
The cost of accessing mental health services in Kenya is very high and as for the case of Nairobi, it is said that treatment of mental illness costs between 50, 000 shillings to 100, 000 shillings before factoring in on the doctor’s consultation fee of around 10, 000 shillings.
Mathari, Kenya’s known public mental health facility requires a down payment of 10, 000 shillings before admission, but one can get express admission if he/she has the NHIF card.
On the other hand, the cost of accessing mental illness treatment in private hospitals is much higher owing to the fact that a patient has to part with between 3000 shillings to 5000 shillings per day every time a psychiatrist attends to them.
When the Ministry of Health launched the Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-2030, it stated that one in every four Kenyans will suffer from a mental disorder in their lifetime.
It is time that Kenya stood up and worked towards educating the society on how to effectively manage stress so as to prevent adverse health effects associated with mental illness. For this to happen, mental health services should be made readily available and accessible to all Kenyans in need of them.