The focus on Covid-19 has led to major disruptions in mental health services for Kenyan children and adolescents at the rated of 72 per cent.
This is despite children’s lobbies warning that they are bearing the brunt of Covid-19. Children could face lasting psychological effects from the pandemic.
WHO said on Tuesday that covid-19 has also occasioned major disruptions in services to older adults and women requiring antenatal and postnatal services.
Currently, 50 per cent of countries are deploying telemedicine and teletherapy to bridge gaps in mental health but there are significant disparities in the uptake of the interventions.
“Covid-19 has interrupted essential mental health services around the world just when they are needed most,” WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus said.
The health agency adds that the pandemic is increasing demand for mental health services. In this regard, states must move fast and decisively invest more in life-saving mental health programmes during and post-pandemic.
“Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety,” WHO said.
Since March, when the first covid-19 case was confirmed in Kenya, mental health issues have ballooned, according to Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.
The Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-30 also indicates that 20-25 per cent of outpatients seeking primary healthcare presented symptoms of mental illness.
This is in addition to WHO’s 2014 report that ranked Kenya at position four in Africa with 1.9 million people suffering from depression, the most common mental illness in the world.
On July 20, the task force on mental health called on the government to declare the illness a national disaster in the country.
“We are recommending an equally decisive declaration by our government that recognises too many people are dying either by suicide or by the root of gender-based violence and we suggest that such a move will and can save lives,” Dr Frank Njenga, who chaired the task forced, said.
Just like the WHO, the task force also recommended that mental health services be well funded by the government.
This is to encourage many people to open up and share their problems without fear of how much it will cost them to treat the disorders.
“Spending two per cent of the national health budgets on mental health is not enough. International funders also need to do more: Mental health still receives less than one per cent of international aid earmarked for health,” WHO said.
Edited by EKibii