Timely boost for mental hospitals
It is commendable that Kenyan senators can rise to the occasion and call for more funding for mental health in the country.
The World Health Organisation indicates that one in four people in Kenya seeking healthcare have a mental health condition.
Already, reports by police show that cases of suicide are on the rise at 483 in the three months to June this year, a sharp increase from the annual average of 320 cases.
There have been numerous reports to show that Covid-19 has impacted mental health as well.
In May, the Ministry of Health and WHO under the WHO-UNDP flagship programme reviewed data on mental health in Kenya and said it needed urgent action, especially on investment.
The task force indicated that the cost of mental health is not only a burden to the country but also on individuals and communities.
All these cement recommendations by the Taskforce on Mental Health in Kenya, which in its report, said Parliament should amend the Mental Health Act to provide for a fund; State to increase equitable funding for mental health services including opening up NHIF cover for outpatients with mental illness and for Treasury to provide tax exemptions for people with mental illness and tax incentives for organisations offering support in this area.
As such it is great to see senators acknowledge the challenges in the sector and the impact on individuals and communities.
However, they should not just pay lip service to this. Together with their counterparts in the National Assembly, they should not only introduce Bills that show their commitment to changing the status quo, but also show up to discuss and pass these laws.
Additionally, they should propagate laws that make life for the common mwananchi easier.
Senator Kithure Kindiki aptly highlighted that the country is facing hard economic times, which has been exacerbated by Covid-19.
Without sorting out the basic needs for many Kenyans, it would be difficult to address other issues including mental health as people are more keen on survival.
Importantly, the senators, as leaders in the community and country, should be at the forefront of destigmatising mental health and creating open and safe spaces for people to open up about their situations.
They must collaborate with the community and other leaders including cultural and religious heads to make this possible.
That way, the country will be in a better place to tackle the situation before it spirals out of control.