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Gladys Boss vouches for compulsory mental health checks for police officers

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Gladys Boss Shollei has recommended police officers be subjected to a mental assessment test.

The test, she says, will aid in addressing mental health challenges facing the disciplined force.

Ms Shollei, also Uasin Gishu County MP, revealed she has already filed a motion before the assembly that will seek to compel all police officers to undertake assessment annually to address cases of suicides and murders in the police force.

“I think it is time to make a mental assessment compulsory for certain jobs. For instance, as you check height, teeth, and muscles when recruiting army or police officers, we should also check their mental state since they carry guns,” said the MP.

She made the remarks in Eldoret town as Kenya marked world suicide prevention day, a national event that brought together survivors, mental health experts, and government officials.

The MP noted that due to the high prevalence of the cases due to stigma, it was time to sensitize the members of the public to get help so that they are treated.

“Everybody knows a family member or friend who committed suicide and this happens in all the social classes. We have children of very prominent people as well as those in villages who have ended their lives,” noted the second-term lawmaker.

Ms Shollei, further also promised to champion for the decriminalization of suicides under the penal code to end stigma around the topic.

“Currently, attempted suicides are considered a criminal offense under the Penal code. But I am one of those who would like to see this change so that more people are able to get treatment,”

“Previously, there was an effort to repeal this through a mental health bill but what we are saying is that this was rejected because you cannot amend the penal code through a mental health bill we had discussed it with psychiatrists and we have agreed that they bring forth another petition,” said Ms Shollei.

She also asked the county police commandant and county commissioner to act on illicit brews that were linked to the cases of suicides in the county especially among the young people.

Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital CEO Dr Wilson Aruasa noted that the health facility was recording up to five cases in a day of attempted suicides.

“We encourage people to share problems so that they can get help. We also want encourage to members of the public to reach out to members of family, friends, and other members of society whenever they realize sudden change in behavior or with suicidal behavior,” said Dr Aruasa.

Dr Aruasa appealed to the government to expedite the inauguration of the mental health board, whose members would be tasked to develop necessary policies and offer advisory on mental health issues in the country.

Dr Julius Ogato chief executive officer at Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital who represented Medical services PS Harry Kimtai at the event said that suicide was preventable and mental illness was treatable.

“When you see anybody with such thoughts we encourage everybody to kindly show empathy and bring us to get treatment. Government has put in place facilities to support mental health patients,” said Dr Ogato.

He noted that although the treatment was expensive, the government had come up with a social health insurance fund to cater to poor families.

Paul Wagwe, the medical chief officer at Uasin Gishu said they are working to have more mental health units across the sub-counties to support those with mental health issues.

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