Establishing good practice for human rights-based approaches to mental health care and psychosocial support in Kenya

16 Apr 2021

A human rights-based approach (HRBA) to health has long been seen as an important way in which to address public health needs in a manner that is equitable and conducive to social justice. Yet the actual content of an HRBA to health remains unspecific, and therefore implementation remains heterogeneous. This situation is even more challenging in the field of mental health, where human rights considerations are particularly complex and have emerged out of a history of myriad violations. Even when research has been conducted into mental health, it has focused predominantly on the Global North, raising questions of contextual and cultural relevance. Accordingly, this study examined the issue from the perspectives of stakeholders in Kenya who consider their work or the services they use to be rights based. It explored the key principles and interventions deemed to constitute an HRBA to mental health care and psychosocial support, the perceived benefits of such approaches, and the main barriers and supports relevant for implementation. The results produced seven key principles and corresponding interventions. Among other things, it highlighted the importance of economic well-being and self-efficacy, as well as the reduction of barriers to implementation, such as stigma and lack of adequate resourcing. Two key tensions were apparent—namely, the un/acceptability of coercion and the role of traditional and faithbased modalities in an HRBA to mental health care and psychosocial support.