Befrienders Kenya in partnership with International Association for Suicide Prevention held a consultative forum on the 6th December 2016 at P.C.E.A Kikuyu Hospital in Kiambu County.
The forum brought together stakeholders from various fields: Community Based Organizations, teachers, Community Health Workers, religious leaders, service providers within the field of Mental Health and general health to discuss suicide – an issue which is a challenge in the country yet is still regarded as a taboo subject and attracts a lot if stigma.
Ms Merab Mulindi of Befrienders Kenya (BK) and volunteer regional coordinator for Befrienders Worldwide introduced BK to the participants, talked on the importance of giving support to those in distress emphasizing on the need to raise awareness among the public on suicide prevention and the fact that everyone has a role to play in enabling affected persons get help. She noted that BK is a member of International Association for Suicide Association (IASP) and represents the organization in Kenya.
The IASP representative Ms. Wendy Orchard also had an opportunity to introduce the organization and said their main focus is to raise awareness on suicide prevention and as an organization were exploring possibilities of a community based project on suicide prevention in Kenya.
Among the activities of the day was a candle lighting ceremony in remembrance of those who died through suicide and standing in solidarity with those who have lost loved ones through suicide. There were also presentations from various professionals tackling Integration of Mental Health in Primary Health care, the role of the church in tackling stigma associated with suicide, Psychological First Aid, the media monitoring project by Users and Survivors of Psychiatry among other related topics. There were also group discussions covering various areas of interest such as sustainability & ownership of the project, creation of support groups, confronting stigma in suicide prevention, how stigmatization takes place, how do we make change, treat and handle suicide survivors. The forum moderators were David Njuguna and James Karuru both volunteers with Befrienders Kenya.
Among the presenters was Ms. Christine Musyimi from the Research, Ethics & Publications office, AMHF. In her presentation, she noted that early detection of mental health challenges reduces the risk of death. She added that the inclusion of suicide as a stand-alone in the list of mental disorders provides an opportunity for clinicians to effectively integrate assessment and management among other priority mental disorders. She emphasized that integrating mental health care reduces stigma for people with mental disorders and their families and hence better health outcomes for people treated in Primary Health Care. She said that to achieve successful integration there should be training of Primary Health Care workers e.g. Clinical officers and nurses to detect and treat mental disorders.
The forum sponsored by International Association for Suicide Prevention was an initial activity within the explorative phase of IASP’s plan for a community suicide prevention project. The proposed project will cover Kikuyu sub-county in Kiambu County and Mutuini sub-county in Nairobi County respectively.