Abel’s Story: The Impact of Community Mental Health Awareness Sessions

Personal Stories of Living with Mental Illness in Kenya

Community-based services can enable people with mental disorders to maintain family relationships, friendships, and jobs while receiving treatment. Abel’s* family brought him to a community mental health awareness session AMPATH conducted. He reported experiencing hallucinations, delusions, aggressive behavior, and wandering for more than five years. While Abel struggled with these symptoms, the family lived under intense trauma and stigma as the community assumed they were cursed.

With help from AMPATH, Abel was diagnosed with schizophrenia and started treatment. His father said regretfully, “I did not know that my son was having a mental illness for the last five years.”

To help ensure Abel could continue to receive the services he needs, two clinicians at the local health center were enrolled in a mentorship  program for management of mental health conditions. Abel visited the health center for follow-up visits to monitor his symptoms. He has greatly improved and expressed he was able to carry out regular daily activities, including a few chores to help raise an income to support their family. The family expressed its gratitude to the AMPATH team for bringing this valued help to the area. 

With primary health workers often having limited knowledge on mental health management, people suffering from mental health disorders often are left to suffer debilitating symptoms impacting their and their family’s ability to lead healthy lives. AMPATH offers training and mentorship of primary healthcare workers to empower them to manage key aspects of severe mental health disorders. Integrating mental health treatment into primary care facilities improves availability and affordability of services, thereby producing better outcomes and helping reduce the stigma amongst medical workers for people with mental disorders and their families. 

With the growing prevalence of mental illness among some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, the Astellas Global Health Foundation supports initiatives to improve access to mental healthcare diagnosis and treatment services for patients and caregivers in low- and middle-income countries. Since 2018, the Foundation has partnered with the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH), through the Indiana University Center for Global Health Equity and in partnership with Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, to expand mental health services and education to more than 500,000 people in Western Kenya. Here are just a few stories of people who have been reached.

To further extend this impact, the Foundation is running its first global employee fundraising campaign in June and July 2024 to support people in Kenya with mental illness. Every dollar donated helps patients with skills-building and income-generating activities to rebuild their lives after successful therapy in AMPATH’s projects.

AMPATH is a partnership among Moi University, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, a global network of academic health centers led by Indiana University, and the Kenyan Government. The AMPATH mission is “to improve the health of people in underserved communities by working in partnership with academic health centers, ministries of health and others to build public sector health systems and promote well-being.” Learn more about the incredible impact AMPATH is making in Kenya on its website.

*All names have been changed.