Mental health remains an integral pillar in the country’s health system and social-economic development meaning that there should be concerted efforts to boost mental health care systems through investment, dedication and planning for resources, coordination, oversight, awareness creation and advocacy.

This is according Ministry of Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Dr. Mercy Mwangangi during the launch of the Kenya Mental Health Action Plan (2021-2025).

The latter has means that the journey towards transforming mental health care systems in Kenya has gathered momentum following the who unveiled the 74-page document.

“Public and private partnerships will be an essential ingredient in the successful implementation of this action plan. I call upon county governments, private sector, faith-based organizations, NGO’s and community groups to commit and invest in mental health to help actualize the objectives of this mental health plan,” she said.

The launch of the mental health action plan comes in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic which has caused significant health, socio economic and psychological impact on people. In addition, the country has experienced a sharp increase in suicide cases, mental health conditions, substance use, and addictive disorders which points to social challenges and unmet needs at societal level.

It is these challenges that the document seeks to remedy in line with the Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015 – 2030. It spells out a four-point broad plan to boost mental health structures as well as increase funding.

According to Dr. Mwangangi, the document prioritizes strengthening of mental health leadership and governance, implementation of strategies for promotion of mental health and prevention of mental and substance use disorders, ensuring access to comprehensive, integrated and high-quality mental health services as well as strengthening mental health systems, including health information and research.

Additionally, Dr. Mwangangi pointed out the policy recognizes the need to promote mental health, adoption of preventive programmes focusing on families and communities at all cross-sectoral levels and reduce stigma.

Some of the activities in the action plan include enhancing mental health literacy, addressing the determinants of mental health and reduction of risk factors. Other strategic actions are geared towards; reorganising, transforming and increasing coverage of services. This she says will be achieved by establishing affordable services closer to communities, ensuring comprehensive quality care and developing person centred services.

“Through the plan, mental health and psychosocial support will be integrated in the emergency and humanitarian response especially in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a long-term recovery strategy,” Noted the CAS.

World Health Organisation Representative Dr. Rudi Eggers addressing the meeting said;“Many mental health diseases can effectively be treated at a relatively low cost. However, there remains a substantial gap between people needing care and accessing care which needs to be addressed,’’ adding that, “effective treatment of mental diseases remains relatively low in many countries including Kenya’’.

On the issue of allocation of resources, the Chief Administrative Secretary said the National and County Governments are expected to dedicate resources towards establishment of user-friendly mental health infrastructure and amenities.  “This will include ICT based services at community and primary care level and ensure consistent supply of essential and high-quality medicine, equipment and technologies’’ she observed.

Speaking during the launch, Presidential Advisor on mental health Dr. Frank Njenga said the Government has already allocated 200 acres of land around Ngong area to have Mathari National Teaching and Referral hospital relocated from where it has been since 1911.

Dr. Mwangangi urged county governments, Faith Based Organisations, Non-Governmental organizations and community-based organizations to adopt and integrate the action plan in their programmes and activities.

The journey to transform mental healthcare systems began two years ago following a presidential directive during the 2019 Madaraka Day celebrations. President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered for the formulation of an appropriate policy response at the national and county level owing to an increase in cases of depression.