We are a group of mental health activists in Kenya (Nairobi and Kisumu), normal and different people, with and without psychiatric diagnoses, with artistic talent and with a will to live a life respected by the communities that surround us and with a wish to network with all the normal different people worldwide.
“Let your light shine and permit others to do the same…”
Current mental health situation in Kenya
“Kenya has little provision for mental health. Despite having a mental health programme, with a focus on community mental health care, the government only spends 0.01% of its health budget on mental health. This means that there is only one psychiatrist for every 500,000 people. Only a third of these psychiatrists work in the public sector, the rest only take on private patients at great expense. There is general health insurance available from the government but this only covers hospital bed charges and is only for people in employment, meaning that this support is inappropriate for the treatment of poor mentally ill people in their communities. Also, there is no disability benefit available for people suffering from a mental illness.” (taken from http://www.basicneeds.org/kenya/index.asp)
Besides the fact that there is very little mental health care offered (especially in the poorer areas), the help that is offered consists mainly of psychiatric treatment that follows the western doctrine of medicine, meaning psychopharmaca, forced treatments and isolation in hospitals.
Events like the post election violence that took place 2007/2008 and the following internal displacement of ca. 500.000 people make it especially urgent to give support and facilitate healing to those affected.
The project was initiated in February 2009. A group of four people in Kariobangi, one of the many ghettos in Nairobi, founded the community based self help organization “Normal Difference Mental Health Kariobangi”. In August 2009 it spread to Kisumu, Kenya’s third biggest city situated by the Lake Victoria.
Intervoice, the International Community for Hearing Voices, gave Normal Difference a membership status at their annual meeting in Maastricht, NL in October 2009.
Up to now, there have not been any public mental health services in Kariobangi and Kisumu’s slum areas.
Respectful and empowering support for people suffering from conditions like depression, anxieties, delusions or unusual experiences is dearly needed, though - especially considering the traumatizations inflicted by the post election violence in 2007/2008.
They need a safe, healing place in their community to be able to cope with their traumatic experiences. The project will provide this place by offering a drop-in-centre, self help groups, councelling and sportive and creative activities. The goal is to give them a chance to find positive, empowering ways to deal with their issues, regain strength and self-confidence and live a self determined life in their communities. This is especially difficult with the rising poverty levels.
Normal Difference was formed so that it can handle and address the situation of people suffering from trauma and psychological distress whilst integrating African beliefs. From an African point of view these can be caused by different reasons:
‘Usual causes’ include traumatic events in the past or present (loss of job, death of loved ones, abuse…), drug abuse or severe deseases like cerebral malaria.
Witchcraft, ancestral spirits or genealogically passed trauma.are considered unusual causes.
These unusual ones will need to be examined in further depth and need special analysis and handling.