It was a gloomy picture at the Isiolo County Referral and Teaching Hospital, a stark and active expression of the indignity meted upon clients seeking mental health services; the outpatient wing had a single room that served as the consultation room, observation room, nursing station and emergency & treatment room. The patients were jumbled up in a congested room thus taking away their privacy, comfort and ability to freely express themselves to the health workers. The inpatient wing was a clear description of “solitary confinement”, dull, quiet and locked up rooms with patients walking around the corridors feeling dejected and worst of all it had neither a dining area nor social amenities. This is what mental health patients had to endure in their quest to get treatment.
HERAF, under the Breaking the Barriers on Access to Quality Mental Health Services and support in Kenya project conducted a targeted advocacy training that brought together key stakeholders in the mental health care space which included the Civil Society Organisations, Mental Health Department and the County Executive Committee (CEC). They learned about the WHO recommended standard for a mental health facility. This training prompted the CECM Health to work alongside the mental health focal person and a psychiatry consultant with a goal of finding a solution. It is through efforts from all the said stakeholders that a consultation room was identified, separated, furnished and the internet was installed. In addition to this, a dining area was created with chairs and tables where patients would have meals instead of eating in their rooms. A television set was also brought as a source of entertainment. Today you will find these patients jovial and social with one another. If you happen to find them watching television you might join them as they dance to some music. This is the power of advocacy followed by action.