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 49 million Kenyans. Consequently, mental health services remain practically inaccessible to most Kenyans, particularly those who need them most – the poor and marginalized groups.
Bridging the gap
Mental illness can be a very lonely place to be, especially when no help seems to be forthcoming. Pamoja means ‘we are one in Swahili. The #PamojaInitiative is about reaching out and bringing help to the many who suffer without help.
Pamoja is a community-based recovery model anchored on technology and community-based psychosocial support. Our outpatient clinic is supported by the Wellbeing Lounge, Pamoja's mental health unit on wheels, and a network of local non-specialist mental health lay workers at the grassroots with specialists located far away via video conference technology enabling underserved communities to access the highest quality services at their doorstep.
A 3-pronged approach
Advocacy, affordable treatment, and social support are the initiative’s focus areas. The innovation has won international accolades, including being featured in the UNAIDS Ten Global Community Innovation booklet of 2020, MIT Solve 2021, and Echoing Green Fellowship 2022.
The Pamoja innovation has three pillars;
We employ a stepped-care approach where lived experience experts are trained as task-shifted lay counsellors and mental health champions in their community
We use a video link to connect these task-shifted lay counsellors and their clients in the community with PDO specialists locally and abroad for instant referral services, consultation, training, and supervision
Our model is homegrown and culturally sensitive. It needs adapted interventions refined through feedback from local stakeholders and our clients.