Early Mental Health Intervention

On this episode we talk with members of the Rotary Club of Lavington in Nairobi Kenya. 

Nancy Mathenge and Dr. Alfred Gitonga tell us about the development of a self triage program for access to mental health supports.

Please connect with the Lavingtion Club to learn more and to support their upcoming fundraiser.


Peter Tonge 0:20
Welcome to this episode of Talking Rotary. I’m Peter Tonge, and I’m a member of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg Charleswood.

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Peter Tonge 1:06
Hey, everyone, this is Peter Tonge, and welcome to another episode of Talking Rotary. I’m here with Nancy Mathenge and Alfred Gitonga and they’re in Nairobi, Kenya. Hi, everyone. Good, nice to see you both. Can somebody please because this podcast gets distributed all around the world. Can you spend a few minutes to tell me a little bit about Nairobi in Kenya so people know where you’re at?

Nancy Mathenge 1:39
Okay, so Dr. Alfred Gitonga and myself are both Rotarians from the Lavington club of Lavington Niirobi in Kenya, Kenya is one of the countries in East Africa is one of the most vibrant and, of course, economically, economically developed countries. In this side of the region, we belong to district nine to one, two. So which covers the countries of Kenya, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda. And basically, we do have a population of approximately 53 million. The capital city of Kenya is Nairobi, Nairobi is a very lively city that’s full of culture is historically historically rich and very beautiful. And it’s actually very rapid to exit one of the most amazing cities in the world

Peter Tonge 2:56
are neat. I’ve never been better. It sounds really, really interesting. So the district is pretty large geographically, then.

Nancy Mathenge 3:09
Yes, it is. With four countries covering four countries. Yes.

Peter Tonge 3:13
Wow! that’s pretty. That’s pretty, pretty easy. Now. Tell me please a little bit about your, your rotary club. How big is it? How have you decided the project that you’re going to work on that kind of thing.

Nancy Mathenge 3:28
So my club, the Rotary Club of Nairobi, Lavington is 10 years old this year. We have a member actually 35. And, and the Rotary Club of love, a lot of districts and of course, international officials. We do have one of the past district governors as a member. And he’s still serving as our AI convention coordinator for the year 2023 2020 to 2023. Membership posts, at least three district officials in our club will look into a number of projects. So our main focus, the main focus for our club is is to help all the communities around us we do have some slums around us. And in the last few years, we have adopted a few of those communities. We’ve taken on projects like the literacy project where we support a community library and a number of sweets. We do have the wash project where we have put up an ablution block in one of the communities. We have put up a well another community I’m in my here we took out two new projects, one of them being the dignity project. This This one is advised by the, you know, the level of poverty. In a country where we, we, we did our research and realize that community we have communities who cannot live a dignified life. And this, this being the youth, it affects their school going their learning and everything. So we took on one community in Kibera slum, Kibera, where we support them, we provide them a big meaty path pack, which consists of, you know, pads, menstrual pads, underwear, and soap. So, we try and visit this community every six months, and just make sure that we can support them as much as possible. The flagship project for my year has been the mental health project. We have been looking in the past years to, you know, to address mental health in Kenya, and have been looking into statistics and proposals on on to, you know, to advise on how to go about mental health project.

Yeah, this has to be this look like a very, a very fascinating, fascinating project. I’m interested in hearing more, but before I do, the the school hygiene project that you’re doing is, are you doing that in conjunction with other rotary clubs as well?

Yeah. So I guess, given, you know, the vast population of poverty of poor areas in Kenya, various clubs have taken on various regions, right, so we can cover as fast as possible. Yeah. Oh, that’s

Peter Tonge 7:13
Fantastic. Okay, so who want who wants to tell me more about the mental health project? Because it sounds fascinating.And invite Dr. Alfred to talk about that.

Dr. Alfred Gitonga 7:25
All right. Hello, hello, once again.

Peter Tonge 7:30
Hi. Nice to chat to you.

Dr. Alfred Gitonga 7:31
Yes, so I am a psychiatrist. And they have been practicing for close to a decade now. And I would like to give you a bit of a background, why mental health has such dire presentation in our country? Yes, please. In first June 2019, the president of Kenya declared mental health as a National Public Health Emergency of epidemic proportions. This was because the literature that the Ministry of Health had stated that 25% of all patients who are accessing outpatient care, and 40% of all patients who are accessing nutrition care in different health facilities in our country had one form of a diagnosable mental health condition or another. And surprisingly, at least 1% of our population suffers from psychosis. Wow. So the literature that we have is that the first onset of a mental health condition usually occurs in childhood or adolescence. And it leads to lots of years of disability dependency and suffering. And digital from the World Health Organization also confirmed that 75% of all mental disorders begin before the age of 24.

Peter Tonge 9:03
The young population then

Dr. Alfred Gitonga 9:05
It is really putting down population, okay. And Kenya has a majority of the population we have around 50% of our population between the ages of 15 and 65. Okay, so the President and I, and members of our club thought that prevention been better than cure, that it would be good to intervene in this youthful cohort, just as before the disease progresses any further to protect them as they are the holders of our future.

Peter Tonge 9:37
So how did you go about doing that?

Dr. Alfred Gitonga 9:40
That sort of statistics that show us the what is the coverage how our health Okay, so our population, the number of youth aged between the ages of 15 to 24 years, according to our most recent census, is approximately 12 million people and they government statistics on access to mental health care in this country states that at least 85% of our population cannot access any form of mental health care. When we do the numbers, we got a total addressable market of around 2 million youth who do not receive the help that they need. And this is the what caused us to think of an intervention at this level. And because of the media reports in our country that show a lot of distress amongst the youth because of the a lot of assault from social media, our current environments, which are where the COVID 19 pandemic made finance a big issue here and we do not want to handle a future to people unable to you know, cope with their own life situations. So we thought the youth is a good call to intervene

Peter Tonge 10:53
Yeah, I agree especially with with those those numbers, that’s a huge challenge.

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Nancy Mathenge 11:34
So, I guess based on the background that Dr. Alfred has given and of course research done by you know, various health organizations including the World Health Organization, the World Health Organization did come up with a pyramid for optimal mix of services to address mental health and the most basic of this was identified as self care, which is what we are targeting, okay. So, as as Rotary Club of loving tone, we determine that self care will help most people to manage their mental health problems, of course, for themselves and of course, maybe with the support of family or friends, thus making it you know, the very most basic form of order of help, it will actually help them to deal more effectively with stress to understand the importance of physical activity and staying mentally, you know, mentally well and it will provide them a platform to determine effective ways of dealing with their relationships and conflict management and of course, the dangers of drug and substance abuse. So, our proposed intervention is that the club intends to develop a self try edge USSD interface you know, for for common mental health disorders and drug abuse. So, this will be when

Peter Tonge 13:14
Please explain to me what that is a USSD interface WHAT IS THAT

Nancy Mathenge 13:25
So that will be a phone technology, where individuals are able to dial a number a USSD number that then directs them you know, oneself triad, okay, where they can, they can then choose the service that they are looking into. So, this triad triad will address a number of mental health issues. And given that the youth are tech savvy, they will easily be able to get into onto the platform and self diagnose the depth the different mental health conditions, you know, based on the validated screening tools provided on that interface, right about what the interface the various interventions there will be. But once they, once they identify there will be a call to action because they will be signposted to professional help through partner organizations who have come on board. We’re talking about the youth here being individuals aged between 13 and 24. Because we believe that’s where the issues, you know, can the mental health issues can be mitigated. So the intervention will specifically target cases of depression, anxiety, substance use disorders Then the post, you know, the PT, post traumatic stress disorder, the PTSD. And then of course there will be gambling. So those, those are the areas that we will target as a stat.

Peter Tonge 15:18
That sounds like a big undertaking. So what stage is the project that now Have you have you? Do you have your professional partners? Where are we at?

Nancy Mathenge 15:28
So we’ve already identified our professional partners, we’ve identified our IT partner, we’ve identified the various health professionals who are willing, you know, to be part to be signposted as as the interventions for help. We have, we have also identified a number of NGOs who are working with the government, and also willing to work with us. So we are now at the point where we are fundraising to get this process and intervention started.

Peter Tonge 16:06
That sounds fantastic. All right. So I happen to know from my changes, that you have a fundraiser coming up. Tell me about that.

Nancy Mathenge 16:20
Thank you. So yes, we do have a fundraiser coming up, and it will be in the form of a bike Athan event. So the Rotary Club of Lovington has taken on the bike Athan events as an annual event and in the previous years has been to address various, you know, various flagship projects. So this year, our bike upon will be addressing the mental health care project. It’s basically going to be a hybrid event hosted by the Rotary Club of Lovington. And the funds raised through this event will of course be geared towards promoting self care amongst the youth. Will we are looking at having it you know, as as a highly social experience, where we attract Rotarians, their families, friends of Rotarians and other guests sure to get this.

Peter Tonge 17:20
And so when does that event take place? I think it’s February sometime, right?

Nancy Mathenge 17:26
Yes. So the event will take place on 11th of February, okay? At one of the conservations called Muga. Forest. Okay, so it’s the government conservation area, and they do have the best raping track in the country.

Peter Tonge 17:44
Oh, cool. So you’ll be riding around a track. Is that the idea?

Nancy Mathenge 17:48
Yes, absolutely. Okay. It’s actually a forest track.

Peter Tonge 17:53
Oh, nice. Yes. Nice. So everybody has everyone has to shine up their bicycles and come out for the day?

Nancy Mathenge 18:02
Yes, absolutely. So through our bike Athan, we are looking for various sponsorship categories. Perhaps you know, just to mention, so, we are reaching out to corporates and individuals who can be able and another rotary clubs who can be able to sponsor us, we are looking for a title sponsor. Of course, the title sponsor will enjoy will enjoy you know, joint joint title of of the bike Athan and flagship and then we do the title sponsor, we are looking at them giving, you know, an amount of 750,000 Kenya shillings.

Peter Tonge 18:47
What? Sorry, what is that sort of come out in terms of, let’s say US dollars? So I have a perspective.

Unknown Speaker 18:59
So that will be about $7000 USD.

Peter Tonge 19:03
Yeah, okay. That helps.

Nancy Mathenge 19:06
Yes. And then we do have the gold sponsor. We’re looking at them, you know, sponsoring $5,000 us. We do have the silver sponsor, where we are looking at 2500 US dollars, and the bronze sponsor. Looking at 1750. We also looking at community sponsors where you can sponsor a group, our team with a minimum of say, 500 us dollars, or corporate sponsors who can sponsor a team with a minimum of $200

Peter Tonge 19:46
Sure, that’s really good. Now, if someone is listening to this podcast and they want to become involved, either in the fundraiser or in the project itself, how should they go about doing In that

Nancy Mathenge 20:02
so anyone wishing to get involved can get in touch with either myself, Dr. Alfred or one of my fundraising director whose name is Rotarian, Segall.

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Peter Tonge 20:43
And then what I would like to do is I will keep all your contacts up. And I’d like to check in about every six months or so to see how it’s going. I think it’s a very interesting project I want to see, I’d like to see for my own personal interest and for the podcast, sort of what the impact is over the next, you know, 18 months, two years, because I think you’re gonna I think it’s a really, I think it’s a very interesting approach. And I think it has the potential to have a huge impact. I really wanted to see how it all unfolds.

Nancy Mathenge 21:15
Absolutely, absolutely. I must say that it has also created a lot of attention here locally, with Dr. Alfred’s colleagues and you know, the entire, you know, medical team, and of course, you know, friends and supporters who, who are affected by mental health, because needless to say, I think everybody has been affected by mental health, either directly or indirectly.

Peter Tonge 21:49
Absolutely. And as you say, it’s all been, it’s all been exacerbated by COVID, and all the other things that are going on as well, right? Yeah, I don’t, I don’t know the situation in Kenya. But I can tell you that in North American inflation is a huge thing. Like our food prices have tripled in the last year, which for my small family of two has a relatively small impact. But if I was trying to raise a family with a bunch of children, that would bring a whole lot of stress into my life. Absolutely. Just trying to feed my family. So I guess. Yeah, really, I really do. So thank you. This is fascinating stuff. As I say, I will, I will stay in touch just if nothing else out of self interest, because I want to see, I want to see the impact this has because I think there’s huge potential here. Absolutely. Thank

Nancy Mathenge 22:45
Absolutely Thank you so much.

Peter Tonge 22:47
A fascinating project that that I can see be used in lots of other places as well. Thank you. Hopefully, you’re setting the model for others.

Nancy Mathenge 22:59
I’m sure we will.

Peter Tonge 23:01
Okay, folks, thank you so much. I appreciate it. And we’ll chat again. Okay.

Nancy Mathenge 23:06
Thank you Peter, enjoy your day.

Peter Tonge 23:08
Take care enjoy your weekend because you’re already there.

Nancy Mathenge 23:11
Peter bye.

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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