Ripples International Launches Bold Mental Health Awareness Campaign in Meru County

By Gerald Mukembu

In response to the community’s rising mental health challenges, Ripples International, in collaboration with local partners, has launched a comprehensive mental health awareness campaign. The initiative aims to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and provide essential support to those affected by mental health issues.

According to a recent survey conducted in Meru County by a team of health experts and published in the East African Journal of Health and Science, 39% of community members have a family member with a mental health condition. In comparison, 68% of Health Care Workers (HCWs) had been diagnosed with such conditions.

According to Ripples International Director Prince Mwenda, many of the patients suffering from mental illness do not seek help due to myths, misconceptions, and resource limitations.  Mwenda noted that the common misconceptions include attributing mental illness to witchcraft or generational curses, rather than recognizing it as a legitimate health issue.

Mwenda was speaking during the launch of the awareness at ABC Bank grounds in Meru town.

“The World Health Organization (WHO), ABC Bank, other human rights organizations and the County government of Meru are developing legal frameworks and policies that promote mental well-being through mental assessments. If anyone will be found affected, they will be linked to care,” Mwenda told journalists.

Mwenda said the campaign seeks to educate the community about common mental health conditions and their symptoms, as well as dispel myths and encourage open conversations.

He noted that the stigma surrounding mental health prevents many individuals from seeking professional help adding that the campaign aims to break down these barriers and create a supportive environment, especially through counselling.

Joice Muriuki, a board member at Ripples International, urged Kenyans to prioritize regular health check-ups. Rather than waiting until they are seriously ill, she encouraged people to visit health facilities proactively.

“The community needs to recognize that mental health is a genuine concern and must show compassion towards those affected. Mental health conditions are treatable, and it’s essential to prioritize prevention and lead a healthy life. Let’s work together to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illnesses,” she said.

She emphasized that a significant proportion of mental health cases stem from various factors, including stress, hereditary predisposition, depression, job loss, family issues, and domestic violence.

Dr Kellen Mumbi, representing Non-Communicable Disease coordinator Lillian Kaloki within the Meru County Government Health Ministry, highlighted that 25% of the population faces mental health challenges. These issues span a range of conditions, including bipolar disorder, depression, suicide, and other psychiatric disorders. The impact of these mental health issues is significant, accounting for a 60% loss in Gross Domestic Development (GDD).

‘In our nation, the loss of Sh62.2 billion in GDP is not merely a statistic—it represents the well-being of our communities. The 2022 Mental Health Act was thoughtfully crafted to protect those affected by mental health challenges. We implore our communities to actively participate in mental health screenings. Our dedicated doctors stand ready to assess and guide individuals through this journey.

It’s essential to recognize that mental health is not synonymous with witchcraft; it affects ordinary people from all walks of life. The good news? It’s treatable. Let’s break the stigma and prioritize mental well-being,” She added.

Dr Esther Mbaabu, a lecturer at Kenya Methodist University (KeMU), emphasized the importance of taking mental health conditions seriously in Meru. She advocated against stigmatizing individuals who suffer from such conditions. Instead, she encouraged people to seek professional help by going to hospitals or visiting psychiatric experts.

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