Kenya Red Cross Society, Lower Eastern regional manager Patience Kitonga said they had created an online platform where they have professional telecounselors to provide tele-counselling services through emergency number 1199.

“In 2020 during the Covid-19 period, we noticed that mental health was a critical issue hence Kenya Red Cross Society has come out strongly to advocate for this,” Kitonga said.

Kitonga spoke during the ‘Power of Humanity Walk’ at Wote town in Makueni on Saturday, July 8.

The five kilometres walk was organized by the Humanitarian organization in partnership with the Makueni county government, Nacada, No Summit Too High Foundation led by its founder and mountaineer Dr Faith Mwende.

It was intended to create awareness on matters of mental health in the Lower Eastern Region.

The theme was ‘together we can overcome mental health stigma’.

“I’m happy and excited that several partners have come on board to support this initiative. This theme is basically around building our mental health, and this is critical space that we are mobilizing partners to come and speak about,” Kitonga said.

Governor Mutula Kilonzo Junior was represented in the walk by four of his CECs.

They included Japheth Mang’oka (Devolution), Damaris Kavoi (Finance), Nicholas Nzioka (Gender and Sports) and county secretary Justine Kyambi.

Participants planted trees at the governor’s office compound and Kenya Red Cross Society’s Makueni county office compound before conducting a procession from the latter’s venue through the streets of Wote town before holding a sensitization meeting at Wote Green Park.

“We are here to create awareness and remind everybody that their well-being is very critical and for us as an organization, we have gone ahead to even share the online platform that provides telecounseling services,” Kitonga said.

“So, we call on all partners and Kenyans of goodwill and ages to champion mental health.”

Kitonga said some of the areas they were keen on were; lifestyles and how basically ‘we are running at workplaces’ as Kenyans looking at issues around stress as one of the biggest contributors to mental ill-health.

She said the advocacy and push that they were involved in was to create awareness for people to take care of their mental health.

Kitonga said it could be diet or exercise, but the little efforts individuals put towards mental health shouldn’t just be for themselves alone, but also for those around them.

She urged Kenyans to hold each other together and be others’ champions.

“Mental ill-health isn’t the people who we see undressed on roads. It’s even the instability we have in our mental status. So, what’s we are rallying on that we change our lifestyles, accommodate each other, learn to speak when we need to,” Kitonga said.

She said they had a group of volunteers trained as peer facilitators who had been trained by professionals to provide mental health services in schools.

“We have weekly sessions in schools where our peer facilitators have one on one or group counselling sessions with children,” Kitonga said.

Mwende shared her experience and the lessons she learnt while she attempted to summit Mt. Everest.

She told Kenyans to face life with patience, resilience and positivity since no situation is permanent.

“Nothing is impossible. There will be always a solution to that situation. There is always next time just like it was in my case while summitting Mt Everest in Nepal, Asia,” Mwende said.

“If you see the ‘weather’ is dangerous like in my case for Mt Everest, retreat and relax for there is always next time.”