Mental illness can be a very lonely place to be, especially when no help seems to be forthcoming. Pamoja means ‘we are one’ in Kiswahili. The #PamojaInitiative is about reaching out and bringing help to the many who suffer without help.
In Kenya, studies show that 10.8% of Kenyans have a mental illness at any point in time. However, the government invests just 0.01% of the health expenditure on mental health and has only 62 government psychiatrists serving 47 million Kenyans (WHO 2017). Consequently, mental health services remain practically inaccessible to most Kenyans; particularly those who need it most – the poor and socially excluded groups.
Mental illness is a debilitating illness that has a terrible impact on individuals, families and communities. The WHO Global Burden of Disease 2001 indicate that 33% of the Years Lived with Disability (YLD) are due to neuropsychiatric disorders.
Bridging the gap
The #PamojaInitiative is a social innovation that bridges the gap in mental health treatment and care at the grassroots. It provides a platform for psychologists and people with lived mental health experiences to volunteer their time to help our community overcome the biggest barrier to treatment – access (cost and distance).
A 3-pronged approach
Advocacy, free treatment and social support are the initiatives focus areas. These are currently achieved through our two categories of volunteers:
This social innovation targets the poor and socially excluded groups in our community who are left out by mainstream actors. Our beneficiaries are largely drawn from people living in slums, vulnerable adolescents, PLWHIV, prisoners, drug users, sex workers, GBV survivors, survivors of disasters such as the #SolaiDam disaster that claimed 47 lives.
HIV and GBV
Both HIV and GBV are a cause and effect of mental health problems. Unfortunately, as the incidences of GBV and HIV increase among the poor and socially excluded groups, so does the prevalence of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, traumatic stress symptoms and substance abuse.
Last year, #PamojaInitiative started a dedicated HIV psychosocial support program run by one of our members who has lived with the virus for 21 years; a response to the growing demand for psychological` support from people living with HIV among our beneficiaries.
Notably, 20% of our beneficiaries who come for drug treatment, psychotherapy and social support are HIV+