Africa Mental Health Foundation Awarded 700,000 CAD fund for Mental Health Program in Kenya

The TEAM initiative—a mental health program conceived by the Africa Mental Health Foundation (AMHF) based in Nairobi, Kenya in collaboration with the Columbia University Global Mental Health Program in New York City, USA—has recently been selected to receive close to 1 million CAD of funding through Grand Challenges Canada (GCC)’s Transition to Scale program. GCC is funded by the Canadian Government and rewards innovative initiatives in low- and middle-income countries.

The TEAM initiative is spearheaded by Dr. Victoria Mutiso of AMHF. With her team, which includes researchers as well as clinical professionals, she has devised a program that will allow mental healthcare to be more readily accessible to the Kenyan population at the primary health care level. Along with GCC, AMHF has obtained additional matched funding for the TEAM initiative of 800,000CAD from the County government of Makueni, Kenya, where this project will first be implemented. TEAM is slated to be launched on the World Mental Health Day (October, 10, 2015) both in Toronto, Canada and in Makueni County, Kenya. The initiative is expected to run for 18 months with a possibility of continued funding from the County government to ensure sustainability.

Lack of trained human resources and the challenges of stigma have been an enduring obstacle to widespread and sustainable mental health care in Kenya. The innovation of the TEAM initiative is to dovetail its proposed program onto the existing networks and structures of primary care centers and the informal healthcare structure comprised of traditional and faith healers. Both of these structures have a wide geographical reach and are trusted by the Kenyan population. The traditional and faith healers in particular are commonly relied upon by Kenyans when a member of the community is affected by mental illness. Rather than undermine these informal health workers, TEAM has partnered with them to gain direct access to the Kenyan rural population in need of care. A referral program will then ensure that individuals identified by the healers are directed to local primary care centers, where medical health care workers will have been trained in the identification and treatment of mental health conditions.

Targeting 20 health centers, among which will be sub-county level health facilities in Makueni County, this initial run of the TEAM initiative will have the potential to improve the mental health condition of over 2000 people. The TEAM initiative aims to act as an exemplar for similar programs to be adopted throughout Kenya, and in other context-similar low income countries globally.

Kenyan faith healers pose during their “graduation ceremony” following successful training on screening and referral for mental illnesses conducted by AMHF.

Kenyan traditional healers pose during their “graduation ceremony” following successful training on screening and referral for mental illnesses conducted by AMHF, to promote collaboration between formal and informal healthcare systems in mental health.

Engagement with the Makueni County Governor