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Road filled with challenges for mental health team

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Chronic shortage of psychiatrists, inadequate funding and societal ignorance among challenges

A team of experts on mental health begins its work amid challenges that have crippled efforts to keep the conditions at bay.

A chronic shortage of psychiatrists, inadequate funding and societal ignorance on mental health are some of the challenges the experts will have to deal with.

Last week, Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki gave a green light to the National Mental Health Task Force to start its work. The team of experts was formed after President Uhuru Kenyatta called for it. Ms Kariuki said the team was supposed to “transform mental health systems to ensure the mental wellbeing of Kenyans at large”.

The team of experts, her post on Twitter read, “is mandated to assess the causes of the increase in mental ill-health occurrences and recommend transformative solutions to this nascent epidemic on behalf of Kenyan citizens”.

“We’re greatly concerned by the rising trend of suicide, acts of violence and the burden of mental health conditions. This task force is expected to assess the mental health systems, namely legal, policy and administrative environment to identify areas of reform.”

She urged them to consider the changes in the society which may exacerbate or trigger mental health problems as well as emerging issues such as gambling and cyberbullying.

Renowned psychiatrist Francis Njenga, doctors Syengo Mutisya and Mercy Karanja from Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital are part of the team.

Lukoye Atwoli, a professor of psychiatry, who is not part of the task force, said he welcomed the move. “The mental health of Kenyans is in a crisis and unless something serious is done, it is only going to get worse.”

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A 2017 global report on mental health by the World Health Organisation showed that about 4.4 per cent of Kenyans — over two million people — have a mental problem of some sort.

Prof Atwoli raised concerns about the shortage of funding of mental health in Kenya which has paralysed services. “It is the money to train more personnel, run programmes such as suicide prevention, screening for young people in schools, run mental health campaigns. There is a lot that needs to be done,” said Prof Atwoli in an interview with HealthyNation.

The Kenya Health Workforce report indicated that there were only 71 psychiatrists in the country, a majority of whom are in private practice. The numbers are not promising for psychiatric nurses in Kenya.

To surmount the challenge of fewer healthcare workers, a senator had proposed a bill that would delegate the management of mentally ill people in hospitals, such as admission and discharging, to psychologists — mental health practitioners who do not have medical degrees.

Psychiatrists were opposed to the suggestion. Then, psychiatrist Susan Hinga told HealthyNation: “Sometimes a patient may look depressed, but maybe it is the thyroid hormones that are low and only a doctor can tell that difference not a psychologist.”

The negative perception of mental health in Kenya has not helped the situation as it affects data collection and whether families or individuals will seek medical attention.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics reported in 2018 that 421 deaths were as a result from suicide, but experts are worried that the actual number may be ten times more: people do not report suicide deaths because attempting suicide is illegal in Kenya, and comes with a lot of stigma.

The mental health fraternity has been battling to have suicide decriminalised as it is a disease.

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Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.

“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.

“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”

With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.

There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.

Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Rugby Championship

There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.

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That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.

South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.

“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.

‘Seven Nations’

Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?

Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.

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England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.

Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.

Super Rugby

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Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.

The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.

Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.

South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.

‘Pro16’

Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.

“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.

But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.

While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.

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Currie Cup

The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.

First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.

But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections

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By NATION REPORTER

Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.

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Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.

The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.

Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.

Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.

Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.

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