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Experts join forces for mental health in Kenya

 Over 100 experts joined a discussion to kickstart the latest mental health investment case – this time in Kenya. The multistakeholder event hosted by the Ministry of Health was held on 17 May 2021. The investment case, under the Task Force’s WHO-UNDP flagship program, reviewed data on mental health conditions in Kenya and agreed that the scale of the problem required urgent attention.

Government, academic, civil society, and UN participants reviewed opportunities and challenges in scaling up an effective response to improving mental health in the country. The findings will be part of a report that the investment case team is putting together, which will also describe the economic and broader societal costs of mental health conditions to Kenya, as well as the return on investment from scaling up action.

Mental health is an area of massive concern across the world and participants made clear that Kenya is no exception. A staggering 1 out of 4 persons who seek healthcare in Kenya has a mental health condition. Depression is common and there are increasing rates of substance and alcohol use disorders. While the country does not currently have a specific budget for mental health, the good news is that Kenya established a Mental Health Taskforce last year and has recently implemented a number of reforms to improve care for those with mental health conditions. The team leading the investment case described how mental health conditions not only contribute to health care costs but are a significant socio-economic drain to individuals, families, and communities.

Dr. Rashid Aman, Kenya’s Health Chief Administrative Secretary summed this up perfectly: “Health is wealth and there is no health without mental health”. The investment case, which is being funded by the Russian Federation, is critical to generating greater action. Dmitry Maksimychev, the Russian Ambassador to Kenya was clear: “The investment case will provide the rationale for increased investment in clinical and preventive interventions”.The question for the investment case team is how much are mental health conditions costing Kenya and her people? And importantly, what are the costs of turning things around? These are questions that require answers urgently – and ones that the team will be focusing on in the coming weeks. You can watch a recording of the meeting here.  

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