Person Centered, Rights Based Approach to Mental Health System
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. This definition by the World Health Organisation tells us that without exception, whether one has metal health illness or not, we all should be treated equally.
Mental health in Kenya has recently come into the limelight especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic which caused turmoil in different facets of people’s lives. It has also revealed the stigma that is prevalent causing many to shy away from seeking help. The numbers of people developing conditions such as depression are on the rise which has forced the authorities into a position where mental health cannot be ignored any longer. With the ongoing support from the highest office in the government, we can now see goodwill from the government in advancing mental health in Kenya.
It isn’t often that we find a system that has people truly at the center of a policy. Courtesy of World Health Organisation (WHO), we now have documents with guidelines backed up by data consolidated from all over the world including Kenya. Adopting the person centered, rights based approach to mental health provides a holistic method that caters to all parts of life including one’s relationships, work, family and education among other areas of life. The good practices that align with the human rights based approach include the respect for legal capacity, non-coercive practices, participation as well as community inclusion. This approach will allow mental health patients’ dignity to be upheld, diverse treatment options to be offered and new paths of recovery will be realised. In the words of a renowned poet Erin May Kelly, “When consent is the only non-negotiable thing, we can build a system that heals more than it hurts.”
Compiled by Rebecca Makau, student of Journalism and Media Studies, University of Nairobi