Kena Health App Making Quality Mental Health Support More Affordable and Accessible To All

October marks World Mental Health Awareness Month, an annual occasion that aims to create public awareness around issues related to mental health.

This year’s theme, ‘Make Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority’, is more crucial than ever. This is especially true for South Africans who are experiencing increased symptoms of anxiety and depression, exacerbated by load-shedding that puts added stress on businesses and households, as well as financial strain caused by inflation on basic goods and the rising cost of fuel.

Beyond South Africa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) have called for new measures to tackle mental health issues at work.

WHO’s World mental health report, published in June 2022, showed that among one billion people living with a mental disorder in 2019, 15 percent of this group were working-age adults. This speaks to the fact that work amplifies wider societal issues that negatively affect mental health, including discrimination and inequality. Bullying and psychological violence (also known as ‘mobbing’) are other key complaints of workplace harassment that have a negative impact on mental health. Yet discussing or disclosing mental health remains a taboo in work settings globally.

Digital solutions are increasingly helping to address barriers around seeking out mental health care. Kena Health is one such service that dramatically improves access to mental health professionals through a private, affordable and remote access service.  The app allows South Africans to chat to a registered doctor, nurse or mental health professional and since it launched in March 2022, about 25% of all consultations have been for mental health issues related to depression, anxiety, and stress.

The solution begins with awareness

The single biggest barrier to getting help is knowing that there’s a problem. Mental health is seldom taught or addressed in schools and there’s a general low level of awareness around the symptoms of different mental health conditions. In turn, people who need help with their mental health often mis-identify symptoms or their causes and struggle as a result for months or years, excusing or believing that their health issues are caused by something else. This is made worse by the cultural stigma that often surrounds mental illness.

Though the COVID-19  pandemic has raised awareness of mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, there is still a long way to go in truly driving more awareness and education.

At the same time, the growing availability of app-based counselling services like Kena Health have made accessing mental health help easier than ever.

How Kena Health is improving access

In addition to awareness being a barrier to seeking professional help, access to registered mental health professionals can be challenging.

An example of this is psychiatrists, who are responsible for diagnosing and prescribing the correct medication for mental health conditions. Despite this important role, according to data from South African Society of Psychiatrists, there are only 1.52 psychiatrists per 100 000 people in the country, and they’re mostly concentrated in just two provinces — Gauteng and the Western Cape. This compares to more than 30 per 100 000 for some countries in Europe, almost 20 times more than South Africa. We see a similar shortage in psychologists and mental health counselors in the country. The result is long wait lists, high prices and lack of access in small and rural communities.

Kena Health overcomes this challenge by allowing people to have mental health consultations remotely. By giving people easy access to counsellors outside of their area while at the same time lowering the cost, Kena Health is making counselling affordable for significantly more people at only R185 per consultation.

Kena Health allows patients to consult via text, voice or video in the App.With mental health consultations patients often feel more comforable chatting via text, as this allows for increased feeling of privacy and anonymity.

Improving access and helping people feel more comfortable, private and secure when seeking help contributes to greater education and understanding, while growing awareness of mental health issues and reducing stigma. By changing how we access services, app-based care is one of the biggest drivers of change in our social attitude towards mental health.

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*Press release

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