COMMUNITY PERCEPTIONS AND KNOWLEDGE OF MENTAL ILLNESS IN THE RURAL KISUMU REGION OF KENYA
Objective: The Global Health Initiative (GHI) at the University of British Columbia collaborated with the NGO, Kenya Partners in Community Transformation (PCT), to explore community knowledge, beliefs and practices surrounding mental health and illness in the rural Kisumu region.
Methods: Five focus group discussions (FGDs) were held in three rural communities within the Kisumu region. Demographic groups surveyed included: women (n=54), men (n=14), and Community Health Workers (CHWs; n=36). Focus groups probed community mental health knowledge and included case–based vignettes describing presentations of mental illnesses as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition.
Results: Participant responses on mental health and mental illness definitions were generally well understood; however, stigmatizing perceptions were present among community members an CHWs. Medical–based etiologies and treatment were rarely suggested for psychiatric illness, and CHWs did not identify themselves as a resource for mental illness cases. Significant barriers to accessing mental healthcare exist in the area, including stigma, financial strain, and long distances to care centers.
Conclusion: Overall, FGDs with community members and CHWs indicated education on mental health was limited. Qualitative data gathered will be used to tailor WHO mental health modules to meet the unique needs of CHWs living in the rural Kisumu region of Kenya.