The 3rd Mental Health Stakeholder’s Legislation Review meeting – Part 2 (Human Rights and Legal Point of View)

4:17:00 PM

Samwel Tororei is a blind man who makes blindness the new cool. I loved his humor, I loved how he held his braille notes and spoke out like he owes the world. He is definitely on my role models nomination list. Back to the meeting, as mentioned earlier, mental health issues are human rights issues and as he began his talk, he raised concern as to why The National Council of Disabilities was not present. Dr. Owiti was quick to tell him that Mental health is not a ‘dustbin’ for all other illnesses which brought the old debate of whether intellectual disabilities are mental health issues.

i)                    The Mental Health Mathematics
Dr. Tororei’s talk dwelt on Article 43 where everyone has a right to the highest attainable health standards. He went further and gave the numbers;
There are 77 psychiatrists in Kenya, 46 are in the public service, 28 of whom are in Nairobi. 400 psychiatric nurses, 33 clinical psychologists and 40 million Kenyans…now do the mathematics. The funding remains at 1%.

Here comes the shocker; the whole of Northern Kenya has no psychiatric services. Are we saying that there mental health status is tip top? I mean the education focus there is poor, health services lacking… No wonder oil was discovered there, God’s timing is always best.(PS;Our educational campaign 100girls in 100 days is still on going, we are on Day 71, 29 more to go)

ii)                  Complaint structure
He also cited that there is no set mechanism for PMIs to put forth their complaints. Unfortunately the more PMIs push, the more they confirm they are not in a good state of mind. This goes back to the administration of property, who protects the rights of persons with mental illnesses? Yes we are working on a policy and bill which will govern the way things should run but have we considered the who is who and how to go about it all? Rahab’s words resound, nothing for us, without us…I will to it that the next reference meeting has PMIs at different levels. I have never had a large bank account that would lead my family and friends to scrapple and want me to be forever sick so that they can control it, but at what stage do we say, this person is fit to take care of themselves and their property? As described in a previous post, when you have bipolar shifts, you can misuse funds et al so having all that at your disposal is not such a bright idea but does that mean I will be on a pay slip to access my own money and to what extend? This calls for carers and PMIs who have been there to guide.

iii)                Training
The issue of training raised its head here and the lecturers in the house found their tongues. The doctor/medic is the one who determines this is the illness I have but most of them shun away from mental health as a unit because of stigma, funding among other issues. The question of issuing incentive to medicine student to have them study mental health was floated but was quickly shot down because as medicine is a calling, mental health is a higher calling. It was therefore agreed that the curriculum should have basic mental health training as a compulsory unit for all studying medicine to prevent unnecessary referrals, the stigma through neglecting them…this I second as it will also reduce the misdiagnosis anthem threaten the local Dr. Phil’s since there is REAL competition. It will also channel mental health care into the primary units as required by the devolved governments.

Vincent Kimosop of ILA – International Institute of Legal Affairs went through the Policy which was drafted in 2002 but has never seen the light of day due to lack of capacity. Among the things that need to be checked include;
-          Statistics update including the PEV, flooding victims among other occurances  that have taken place since 2002
-          Community mental health care – More and more NGOs are advocating and promoting community care as opposed to institutionalizing. The policy should put the structures to aid and promote this
-          Devolution – The policy being a 2002 document does not recognize the constitution and the devolved gov’t.
Vincent also explained the way forward;
-          Consolidated understanding – Once some of the issues raised are revised and the stakeholders give the document a thumbs up and there is a consolidated understanding, the document will move to the ministry.
-          Cabinet Memo – The minister will draft a cabinet memo which a two page document stating what the whole document is and why we need it.
-          Ratification and Parliament – The document will go to Parliament for back and forth before it is presented as binding document

I know it is still a long way ahead and new developments keep coming but that is necessary so as to make sure we have an all-inclusive document that protects the right of each and every one of us. I am also pleased that the government has representation in our meetings and they give input.

Other things worth noting are:
-          The Kenya Board of Mental Health which is yet to be composed but will play a major role in the implementation of this legislation and you know I will be eyes open to see if there will be youth, women and other parties that need to be on the board. We agreed on a mapping system to make sure there is across the board representation.
-          Social protection was also discussed, this one passed me by, I need someone to school me on this and the Legal Aid Bill…lol I have so much reading to do.
-          Legal Aid for offenders with mental illnesses
-          Abuse of PMIs from Health Care providers

This marks the end of Part 2…read the next one for part 3 where I explain why mental health issues are everyone’s issues…remember to catch me this Saturday from 9a on Ghetto Radio, 89.5 FM discussing the legislation, you can stream live on
Bipolar support group meeting from 10am, this Saturday at IMAC, 5th Floor Tumaini House behind Kencom. I will be there immediately after my radio talk.

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