Unmasking Mental Health Pandemic Among Kenyan Academia

Title of the Event: Unmasking Mental Health Pandemic Among Kenyan Academia: Sharing Experiences and Building Resilience Against the Odds
Date of Event: 20 - 23, May 2024
Place: Kitui, Kenya

Detailed Description of the event
The World Health organization in 2022 published a report titled “World Mental Health Report: Transforming Mental Health for All”, in which the world health body calls upon all stakeholders to work together to deepen the value and commitment given to mental health, reshape the environments that influence mental health, and strengthen the systems that care for mental health. In Kenya has a Mental Health Policy 2015-2030, in which the Government outlines its commitment to pursue policy measures and strategies for achieving optimal mental health status and capacity of each individual. However according to a Kenya taskforce report published in 2020, the country suffers a heavy burden of mental illness. For instance, among the highlights of the report, out of the people sampled, 61% individuals indicated they felt lonely, 52% helpless and 33% felt angry. Several factors are attributable to the poor implementation of the policy key among them  being lack of awareness and understanding of mental health issues among the general public, inadequate funding to support mental health services, and lack of cooperation and coordination among the relevant stakeholders.
The higher Education (HE) sector has undergone constant set of changes in the past two decades. In Kenya, neoliberalisation (e.g. structure, hierarchy, vision, values, practices) and the current climate of global education-competition, characterized by: short-term contracts, rapid growth in student numbers, overwhelming workload for academics, lack of recognition, pressure on  academics to generate research income, among others, has placed extreme expectations on academics. Largely, these have forced academics to adapt to corporate models of management and bow to extreme pressure to provide high-quality teaching, supervision and research, safeguard the international outlook of their institutions, manage a heavy administrative burden, and publish research with “higher standards”.
There is a growing interest on the influence of the changing higher education institutions ‘environment on staff welfare. There is a growing evidence that the university environment is becoming increasingly challenging triggering high levels of stress and burnouts which in turn jeopardizes academician’s physical and mental health. It is worth noting that mental health is as important as physical health as it touches on our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and how we make health and life choices. While some signs of poor mental health may seem obvious such as a sudden indulgence into uncontrolled drinking, desertion of duty or suicidal attempts, others remain cryptic and chronic in nature.
This, compounded with the fact that most faculty would not want to discuss their mental status with other people, including with doctors, makes it one of the most difficult disorders to diagnose and treat. Indeed, the fear of stigmatization, societal expectations and the belief that the faculty are at the helm of academia and hence cannot suffer from mental depression or illnesses and other related mental disorders, leaves the faculty very vulnerable to advance effects of mental health. Indeed the effect of mental health do not affect the individual’s health but also their output leading to poor performance

Goal, Objectives and Target Group

The goal of the conference is to provide a forum to deliberate on the extent of mental health issues within the institutions of higher learning in addition to sensitizing the faculty on the need to seek medical intervention should they experience mental disorders.

The specific objectives of the training shall be to;

  1. Identify different manifestations of mental health disorders among the faculty.
  2. Establish the main factors causing mental health disorders in higher learning institutions.
  3. Determine possible mitigation and management strategies of mental health disorders in our learning institutions.
  4. Formulate recommendations for development of policies and strategies for managing mental health disorders in institutions of higher learning.
  5. Encourage sharing of experiences, networking and cooperation among the DAAD alumni including the faculty on mental health challenges.

Target Group

  • Faculty in institutions of higher learning in Kenya. A majority of the participants shall be DAAD alumni (see Annex 3 – the participants list).
09 May 2024
04 October 2023
30 March 2023
16 March 2023
17 February 2023