Coronavirus – Kenya: Government prioritizes mental health in COVID-19 response

Coronavirus – Kenya: Government prioritizes mental health in COVID-19 response

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NAIROBI, Kenya, June 22, 2020 — The Ministry of Health and partners are continuing to take action to help Kenyans whose mental health and wellbeing is being affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ministry is providing mental health and psychosocial support strategies and measures which are critical in the short and long term response to COVID-19 pandemic, the Chief Administrative Secretary Health, Dr. Rashid Aman, said today.

He pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous health, socioeconomic and psychological impact on the population.

Globally, the pandemic is associated with increasing daily infections, deaths, social disruption, economic loss and anxiety and uncertainty about the future which results in emotional strain and fear about contagion, health, safety and livelihoods for the population.

He disclosed that stigma associated with the disease is one of the major cause of psychological distress and warned that healthcare workers and frontline workers are at high risk of stress and trauma-related disorders.

In addition, containment measures such as, stay at home, physical distancing and restricted movement directives adversely affect social and mental wellbeing of healthy individuals by inhibiting social interaction, social connectedness and engagement in healthy lifestyles.

“All these challenges predispose this socially vulnerable population to a high risk of contracting COVID-19 and their continued wellbeing and quality of life,’’ he said and stressed that supporting mental health remains one of the Governments highest priority.

The government he said is prioritizing Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) through provision of mental health and psychological services to the general public, quarantine and hospitalized persons, healthcare workers, and high risk vulnerable populations.

Other measures in place includes provision of 24 hour access to tele-counselling services and psychological care via hotline numbers 1199 and 719.

Implementation of the Presidential directive on Mental Health, and transformation of Mathare Mental Hospital into a SAGA or a parastatal is also underway to provide referral specialized care, training and research in mental health.

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