Insights of Healthcare Workers and Community Members on Mental Health Perception and Practices in Meru County, Kenya

  • Colleta Kiilu Amref Health Africa
  • Yvonne Opanga Amref Health Africa
  • Jack Musembi Amref Health Africa
  • Diana Mukami Amref Health Africa
  • Catherine Mwenda Amref Health Africa
  • Stella Waruinge Amref Health Africa
  • George Kimathi Amref Health Africa
  • Peter Memiah University of Maryland
Keywords: Mental Health, Mental Illness, Substance Dependence, Healthcare Workers, Access and Utilization, Attributes, Attitudes, Mental Health Services
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Mental health is a neglected field in many low and middle-income countries, such as Kenya, where information on the prevalence of mental health conditions is scarce. This problem is aggravated by an uneven distribution of mental health service providers and widespread ignorance and stigma around mental illness in the general population. The study in Meru County, Kenya, aimed to assess the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of healthcare workers and community members regarding mental health. The study, a descriptive cross-sectional survey, involved 535 community members and 109 healthcare workers, employing both qualitative and quantitative methods. Data was collected through household surveys, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions and analysed using univariate frequencies, descriptive statistics, and thematic analysis. The study revealed that 39% of community members had a family member with a mental health condition, while 68% of HCWs had been diagnosed with such conditions. Mental illness was often attributed to supernatural causes, genetics, substance abuse, and socio-economic pressures. A significant gap was found in the availability of counselling services in health facilities, with only 29.4% of HCWs reporting their presence. The perception of the affordability and accessibility of mental health services varied greatly between HCWs and community members. Additionally, while HCWs reported the availability of free medication, community members experienced shortages. The study also noted differing attitudes towards patients with mental illness in terms of respect and dignity and highlighted the use of traditional healers and religious leaders for mental health issues. This study contributes valuable insights into the state of mental health in Kenya, highlighting the high burden of mental illness, limited availability of services, and prevalent myths and misconceptions. It underscores the need for improved healthcare worker training, public awareness, and stronger health systems to address mental health issues effectively in Kenya and similar rural environments


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6 March, 2024
How to Cite
Kiilu, C., Opanga, Y., Musembi, J., Mukami, D., Mwenda, C., Waruinge, S., Kimathi, G., & Memiah, P. (2024). Insights of Healthcare Workers and Community Members on Mental Health Perception and Practices in Meru County, Kenya. East African Journal of Health and Science, 7(1), 171-186.