Mental health conditions continue to take a toll on people's lives and economies. In Kenya, where one person in every ten has a mental health condition, access to effective medical help remains an uphill task due to lack of capacity or widespread stigma.
To alleviate the situation, WHO urges governments to invest resources in mental health. In its 2022 “World Mental Health Report: Transforming Mental Health for All,” WHO reminds governments of three main reasons for investing in mental health.
In Kenya, mental health remains a forgotten sector that attracts minimal investment from the government, making it no better for the heavily stigmatized field. According to the Kenya Mental Health Investment Case 2021, mental health services are scarce and inaccessible, the relevant workforce is limited, and budgetary allocation to this sector is inadequate.
Investing in mental health can reduce suffering and improve the health, quality of life, and expectancy of persons with mental health conditions. Such investment can be realized through proper training of health personnel, equipping mental health facilities, and inclusion of mental health in universal health coverage.
The government can also invest by integrating mental health into all levels of the country's healthcare system, training primary and community mental health workers, strategizing ways to increase the number of mental health professionals, and using technology to promote access to mental healthcare.
Investment in mental health is necessary to help stop human rights violations. Globally, persons with mental health conditions often face human rights abuses. In Kenya, for instance, people with albinism are often victims of ritual killings out of believing that their skin has magic powers.
In addition, affected persons often face discrimination in employment, education, and access to other rights. These violations are despite international human rights conventions protecting such persons.
Investment in mental health in line with human rights includes implementing and enforcing international protocols such as the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). Investing in the implementation of CRPD will help protect the rights of persons with mental health disorders through awareness creation and anti-stigma interventions.
Poor mental health affects the socioeconomic development of people. This happens through reduced productivity, strained relationships, and cycles of poverty and disadvantage. Mental health conditions also lead to loss of productivity as affected persons leave employment due to disability or premature death, operating at reduced capacity, or absenteeism.
According to the Kenya Mental Health Investment Case 2021, mental health conditions will cost the Kenyan economy 62.2 billion shillings in 2021. The money went into medical bills for health conditions and as a cost for lost productivity through absenteeism, presenteeism, and premature deaths.
The government's investment in this sector will promote good mental health. Consequently, Kenya’s socioeconomic situation will improve as productivity and related medical bills will reduce. Thus, the government has every reason to invest in mental health as a pillar critical to the country's socioeconomic development.
Investment can be in the form of national and county governments' budgetary allocations.