New task force takes new approach in efforts to solve mental health crisis

A mental health task force has organised 10 public forums, which started in January 13 and ended on January 27. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

The President shall have a “clear and comprehensive report” on what the country needs to do to tame the runaway statistics on ill mental health before the swearing in of the new Health Cabinet Secretary, a mental health task force has told HealthyNation.

The task force has also taken a new approach — community and public engagement — to an otherwise scientific and clinical issue. Lukoye Atwoli, a professor of psychiatry and a member of the task force, said in a phone interview that before the CS Mutahi Kagwe is sworn in to office, the team will already have delivered the report.

Prof Atwoli said the decision to seek the public’s opinion was arrived at because the step to form the task force was not a scientific undertaking, but one driven by pleas and cries from the public about the state of mental health in Kenya.

“Everywhere the government went, from media reports to social media, it became very apparent that there was an issue, and since this was a problem expressed by the people, it should not only be backed by research, but also by lived experience,” said Prof Lukoye.

The task force has organised 10 public forums, which started in January 13 and will end on January 27.

The meetings with the public will take place in Meru, Makueni, Eldoret, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nyeri, Garissa, Mombasa and Nairobi. The team did not specify why they chose these towns, but they represent the former provincial headquarters.

Prof Atwoli said the meetings will answer questions such as what the residents think ill mental health is and what needs to be done to sort the problems out. Prof Lukoye said the public’s opinion, and the scientific evidence provided by the task force will give better results.