AIC Litein Hospital held its first mental health conference on October 17-19, 2023. The conference, whose theme was ‘Hope for recovery’, aimed at equipping health workers to provide quality care to mental health patients.
The three-day intensive training and information sharing forum focused on treatment of mental health patients, psychotherapy using EMDR, Christian faith integration in counseling and EMDR, strategies of self-empowerment for the unemployed client, suicide prevention an after care, national drug addiction update from NACADA, financing for mental health services, in addition to other topics.
CHAK General Secretary Dr Mwenda
speaking during the AIC
Litein Mental Health Conference.
Financing mental health services
CHAK General Secretary Dr Samuel Mwenda gave the participants an overview of national policy changes in the run-up to the launch of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Programme by President William Ruto during Mashujaa Day celebrations on October 20, 2023. The President launched the national UHC programme at the Wilson Kiprugut Chumo in Kericho County. Dr Mwenda expressed confidence that mental health services would be covered by the social insurance fund expected to be used by all Kenyans.
Treatment of mental health conditions
Participants were taken through theory and practical sessions on medical treatment of different mental conditions. The sessions covered various psychiatric disorders, examination, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, diagnostic and therapeutic challenges.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
Theory and practical EMDR training sessions featured through out the conference. Participants were taken through creating a safe place, water bath technique, principles of brain habit changes, among other EMDR techniques. Live and video demos of practical EMDR sessions were used to enhance learning and participants given an opportunity to practice the newly learned technique.
Empowerment in unemployment
During this session that examined the effects of unemployment on mental health, participants were also taken through strategies for empowerment in the face of the current difficult economic times.
Among the strategies identified were:
- Use of labor-intensive technology
- Accelerating investment in agriculture
- Diversification of healthcare
- Services and employment growth
During the session on suicide prevention, participants heard that 90 per cent of individuals who commit suicide have visited a health facility within the last one year. Health workers therefore needed to be alert to signs of suicide, including verbalizing such an intent, withdrawal and isolation, increased use of alcohol and drugs, among others. Where such signs and symptoms were identified, the health workers were asked to take the necessary treatment measures.
Participants listen keenly to presentations at the conference.
National drug addiction trends
NACADA prevention coordinator Wendy Waithaka updated the conference participants on national drug and alcohol addiction trends. Both children and adults were affected by drugs and alcohol.
In Kenya over 39 per cent of deaths annually result from NCDs and more than 50 per cent hospital admissions are due to NCDs (MoH, 2020). Major risk factors for NCDs are:
1. Harmful use of alcohol
2. Tobacco use
3. Unhealthy diets
4. Physical inactivity
The Kenyan National Commission of Human Rights estimates that 25 per cent and 40 per cent of outpatients and inpatients suﬀer from mental health. The most frequent diagnoses of mental illnesses made in general hospital are depression, substance abuse, stress, and anxiety disorders.
The National Survey on the Status of Drugs and Substances of Use in Kenya, 2022, identified the following new and emerging drug trends:
1. Smokeless tobacco – snuﬀ, tamboo and ndovu ( kuber forms), nicotine pouches
2. Electronic delivery systems – shisha pens, e-cigs, vapes
3. Cannabis edibles – cookies, “mabuyu”, candies
Lowest age for initiation to drugs and alcohol was as follows:
- Tobacco – 6 years
- Alcohol – 7 years
- Cannabis – 8 years
- Khat – 9 years
- Prescription drugs – 8 years
- Heroin – 18 years
- Cocaine – 20 years
CHAK and MHUs mental health programmes
CHAK MHUs were given an opportunity to speak on their mental health programmes. It was a moment of pride as Tenwek Hospital, PCEA Kikuyu, AIC Litein, PCEA Chogoria, AIC Kapsowar, among other CHAK members spoke on their efforts towards the mental health of their clients. Mental health programmes in CHAK health facilities have grown tremendously over the last five years. Most of the health facilities now include a mental health counsellor in their ward rounds.
In the recently launched CHAK Strategic Plan 2023-2028, mental health is domiciled in the NCDs programme.