Enhance mental health

Investigations by the Nation have lifted the lid on what the news story described as flagrant violations of human rights by a church in the country, where human beings are chained, denied proper meals and kept in solitary confinement in the name of psychiatric treatment. That is cruelty of the highest order, especially by a self-proclaimed ‘Man of God’.

It is very difficult to comprehend how this is actually happening in this day and age despite all the mental health advocacy by the medical and scientific fraternity if not the hundreds of mental health guidelines and initiatives the Ministry of Health has been spending taxpayer’s funds on.

But why do some Kenyans, in the first place, always think religious faith, without medical treatment, can solve their mental health issues?

Last year, findings by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) Wellcome Trust Research Programme showed associating suicide with superstition is the reason many Kenyans, especially in Mombasa and Kilifi counties, seek help from traditional and religious leaders as opposed to competent mental health practitioners.

Dr Linnet Ongeri, a psychiatrist and research scientist at Kemri, the principal investigator for the research, explaining that it is because suicide is criminalised in Kenya, which adds to the stigma. She recommended suicide prevention interventions targeted at changing stigmatising attitudes, beliefs and behaviours and improving access to mental healthcare.

Several countries have decriminalised suicide because the fear of persecution has an impact on mental health.

Dr Ongeri further highlighted that 90 per cent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental condition, which is why mental healthcare services need to be affordable and accessible while gatekeepers, such as pastors and traditional healers, need to be trained in the field.

We cannot neglect them because of our cultural beliefs. However, let the authorities enhance sensitisation to ensure mental patients get timely proper treatment and in a humane environment.


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