The proportion of people with mental illness who access mental health care is very low in sub-Saharan Africa. A major contributing factor is stigma and discrimination towards people with mental illnesses. This project is a mental health awareness campaign which is being conducted in Kilifi County along the Kenyan Coast. The campaign is funded by the Wellcome Trust as a collaboration between the Kenya Medical Research Institute- Wellcome Trust, the Documentary Institute of Eastern Africa and the Malindi District Cultural Association.
The awareness campaign slogan is “Difu Simo” – a Kigiryama phrase which means “Breaking free”. It will involve use of participatory approaches and awareness walks to sensitize the public about mental illnesses. The aims of the project are to improve knowledge about mental illnesses, reduce stigma towards people with mental illnesses to encourage them to seek health care and bring the worlds of biomedical treatment and traditional healing in dialogue about a holistic approach to treat and re-integrate people with mental health issues back into the community and live healthy lives.
The awareness activities of the Difu Simo project will be conducted in a specified area of Kilifi County called the Kilifi Health and demographic Surveillance System (KHDSS). This area was demarcated by researchers from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). in the year 2000 and it comprises about 280,000 residents of Kilifi County. The area was selected to capture the majority of patients admitted to Kilifi County Hospital. More details of the KHDSS Review Unit can be found here.
To evaluate the impact of the Difu Simo awareness campaign, research members from the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust will evaluate the changes in proportions of people seeking care at the hospitals within the KHDSS and those hospitals outside the KHDSS. We will also examine whether the awareness activities improved the levels of knowledge of the KHDSS residents and whether improved knowledge lowered stigma towards people with mental illness. Ethical approval to conduct the research activities will be sought from the Scientific Ethical and Review Unit of the Kenya Medical Research Institute.