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Improving access to mental health care in Kenya

David M. Ndetei (Based at the University of Nairobi and Africa Mental Health Foundation, Nairobi, Kenya)
Patrick Gatonga (Based at the Africa Mental Health Foundation, Nairobi, Kenya)

Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1757-0980

Article publication date: 15 August 2011




The aim of this paper is to review the history of mental health service improvement in Kenya, to discuss current provision of services, challenges to the provision of services and future needs for services.


The paper takes the form of a literature review.


Mental health care in Kenya has been a progressing field, though the momentum of progress has been less than desired. The reasons for this are complex including a lack of evidence of the size of the mental health burden which has undermined the political will to focus scarce resources in this area, lack of human resources, models of prevention, and robust mental health legislation. Traditional healers have a significant place in mental health care, these plus efforts to increase training on mental health, task shifting for other clinicians and also prevention may be important steps in improving access to care.

Research limitations/implications

The review highlights how much remains to be done to improve mental health services in Kenya. It demonstrates the need for good epidemiological and intervention data to support a multi‐level approach, involving government, non‐governmental organizations, communities, families, affected individuals and other stakeholders. Prevention and treatment strategies should be streamlined and emphasis put on stigma reduction as well as provision of accessible, acceptable, sustainable and affordable care.

Practical implications

A review of the literature is useful to highlight what is known but also what information is missing and is needed to go forward.


This is the first system level historical review of the development of mental health services in Kenya. It offers a model for investigation that may be useful for others.



Ndetei, D.M. and Gatonga, P. (2011), "Improving access to mental health care in Kenya", Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 97-102.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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