Establishing AMHF was conceptualized in the year 2000 by Professor David M. Ndetei, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Nairobi. It all started when Prof Ndetei and three of his students came together to volunteer their expertise to improve the mental health of underprivileged Kenyans, initially through advocacy. Previously and to-date, Prof Ndetei was heavily invested in the training of psychiatrists in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Nairobi. His efforts contributed to Kenya having the best psychiatrist: population ratio of any country south of the Sahara and outside South Africa (approx 1:500,000).
Despite this great accomplishment for the country, the reality on the ground paints a different picture. Nearly all psychiatrists are concentrated in urban areas with a significant proportion remaining in private practice and providing services to only those who can afford them. The realization that this situation was likely to persist into the foreseeable future with majority of the population left without access to mental health services due to poverty and location demanded that another way be established to meet the needs of the poor with mental illness.
An unfortunate incident in the country also directed the course of events towards the formation of AMHF by revealing the need for more widespread provision of mental health services in the country that were also affordable. Previously other national incidences such as the bombing of the American Embassy in and the Kenya Airways plane crash en-route to Cameroon in had received high profile response from the global mental health fraternity and a lot of financial and resource support to provide mental health services to survivors and victims’ families.
The school fire tragedy in 2002 in which 67 school children were burnt to death did not elicit the same response. On seeing this, Prof Ndetei, some of his fellow colleagues and psychiatry students from the University of Nairobi organized volunteer health workers and other Kenyans and well wishers to make a response and document the endeavor. And thus AMHF was formally registered as a foundation in 2004, founded on the success of this intervention.
This success also motivated a similar response in a slum area in Kenya following the political clashes after the 2007 general elections. AMHF, then three years old, organized well-wishers and in particular 50 students from a private university and a smaller number from the University of Nairobi to effect a response without a single cent of public funds.
Since then, AMHF has grown in leaps and bounds. It has moved into research that aims to find the most cost-effective provision of mental health service at grass-root level and up to the family level. AMHF has transformed itself from purely providing advocacy in its early stages to a viable research organization that brings on board various stakeholders in mental health with various disciplines such as – medicine, psychology, sociology, economics, communication, anthropology, epidemiology and public health –drawn from both the public and private sector, private and public universities, professionals and lay people, students and non-students, traditional and faith healers, policy analysts, caregivers, community opinion leaders etc.
Our dream is the provision of appropriate, accessible, affordable and available mental health services to all people regardless of their socio-cultural economic status, with the focus on the mental health of the individual from the family level to the entire community. We intend to do this through evidence-based advocacy supported by research to inform practice and policy. We welcome you to join us, share and be part of our dream.