Civil societies and mental health specialists in Isiolo County have raised concerns over the increasing cases of mental health illnesses, and appealed to the devolved government administration and development partners to focus more on improving service delivery in the relevant department through allocation of more resources to effectively address the emerging challenge.

Speaking during a two day stakeholders’ consultative meeting convened by Health Rights Advocacy Forum (HERAF) that brought together mental health specialists from the Isiolo County Referral Hospital’s psychiatry department, care givers who have relatives suffering from mental health challenges and representatives of civil society organizations, the participants noted that there was need for collective responsibility by all members of the society to address the challenge, accepting and taking care of those affected.

Valentine Nyaguthii, coordinator of Pastoralist Gender Initiatives (PGI) noted that a bulk of the registered cases of mental health problems especially among the youth were as a result of drug and substance abuse, adding that there was a serious need for all stakeholders to join hands with the government in order to effectively address the root cause which is drug menace, where young people easily access the drug substances.

Abdi Waqo, from Isiolo Human Rights Defenders (IHRD) said that the mental health department does not receive adequate resources from the County government, hence the lack of facilities to enhance treatment and care for those with mental health illnesses, with only the County Referral Hospital having a psychiatric unit which does not have the capacity to serve the entire county. He noted that there was need for the County government to establish more facilities at Merti and Garbatula level 4 hospitals as well as hire more specialists in order to improve service delivery.

Health Rights Advocacy Forum (HERAF) Coordinator Mary Kemunto said that Isiolo residents need to take up an active role during the public participation forums for coming up with the County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs) in order to ensure that the next county government prioritizes the mental health department during the allocation of resources.

Fredrick Kinaro Maina, a care giver whose wife and two daughters suffer from mental health illnesses lauded the impact of the “Breaking Barriers to Mental Health” Programme being rolled out by HERAF, noting that it had helped reduce stigma for those affected and their families. According to Maina, relatives and caregivers of people suffering from mental health problems go through numerous challenges, and that the ongoing sensitization of members of public has helped them understand that mental health illnesses are like any other disease that requires treatment and care.

He called upon families with affected persons to prioritize seeking treatment in health facilities and desist from seeking services of witchdoctors who only worsen the situation, terming them a waste of their resources.

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