Mental Health Wellness Center set up to tackle mental illness in Bungoma

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Bungoma Mental Wellness Centre

By Anne Chebet, Bungoma

A group of professionals and community leaders in Bungoma County has set up a community-based wellness center that seeks to help people living with mental illnesses.

The center, located adjacent to Wamalwa Kijana Secondary school in Kanduyi, Bungoma, is set to provide psychosocial support to mental health patients and help them in their journey to recovery.

“Apart from the referral hospital, there are no other organizations where the patients can be referred to, necessitating the need to have an alternative institution," said Wekesa

Phillip Wekesa (Chairman), revealed that they were motivated by the increasing number of mental health issues that always go unattended in society.

Other board members are Dr Caren Sumba, Duncan Wandabwa and David Kapten

“We need organizations that can offer mental health services and minimize stigma in society because the prevalence is alarming,” he said.

Philip Wekesa

As a professional social worker, Mr. Wekesa reveals that he was determined, together with his friend, to give back to the community by enhancing access to mental health services.

“People are losing their lives to mental illnesses. Some have lost jobs, and we cannot continue denying that mental illness is within us. There is no better way we could give back to the community than starting a program that directly impacts lives,” he said

The program director revealed that they are partnering with Bungoma County Referral hospital, whose psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners will help in offering mental health services.

In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Kenya among the top five African countries with the highest prevalence of mental illnesses, noting that the scale of the problem requires urgent attention.

He acknowledged that the referral hospital is currently offering the services, but the healthcare professionals are overwhelmed by a large number of patients.

“Apart from the referral hospital, there are no other organizations where the patients can be referred to, necessitating the need to have an alternative institution.’’

Bungoma Mental Wellness Centre

Acknowledging the role of families in mental health, Mr. Wekesa said that there would be programs targeting families and putting them in a better place to handle their loved ones who battle mental health issues.

He noted that the majority of patients battling mental illnesses experience difficulties forming and maintaining relationships, adding that the program will give them a chance to form fulfilling relationships.

“Most mental health patients do not form satisfying relationships because the people around them may not understand their needs. When they meet others like them, they are more likely to establish more fulfilling relationships, which contributes to their wellness,” the director said.

Apart from professional mental health services, the program seeks to offer home care services where patients will access personalized care that will contribute to their independence, comfort, and fast recovery.

The director challenged families and community members to embrace people living with mental illnesses and support them fully.

“The community should not discriminate or stigmatize mental health patients. We also need to understand that some of the illnesses can be treated, others can be managed well, and people can lead normal lives despite battling the illnesses,”

He welcomed ideas from different stakeholders on strategies to improve their services and enhance the quality of care.

In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Kenya among the top five African countries with the highest prevalence of mental illnesses, noting that the scale of the problem requires urgent attention.

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