Roy Douglas Otieno, the founder and director of the Kisumu-based NGO Tinada Youth Organization (TIYO) and a member of On The Move e.V., has community work at heart. TIYO has been working on improving the life quality of community members since 2001; through their hands-on experiences, Roy and his team realized the need for mental health activities. Roy learned about our work from one of his colleagues and approached us to help brainstorm which mental health activities could be implemented in Kisumu County and beyond. 

As we were mostly unfamiliar with Kisumu County and Kenya, we could not give any recommendations to Roy and his team initially; however, what we could give them were ideas of how some answers to these questions could be found. Similarly to Ghana, we started Brain Awareness activities, through which we provided education on the one hand and were able to listen to community member’s perceptions on the other hand: what words do community members use to describe mental health conditions, what barriers to treatment do they identify, what solutions to these barriers do community members envision, and more. Community members identified many needs – two of the most prominent needs were research (what does the mental health situation in Kisumu County look like) and advocacy (how do we communicate the research findings and translate them into action). We supported TIYO with the establishment of a Center for Mental Health called Home of Brains, with a particular focus on research activities and advocacy work. Apart from financial support, we also engaged in capacity building. We taught clinical and outreach staff members about mental health to enable them to run the Brain Awareness activitiesindependently from us; we also taught research staff members about mental health to help them appreciate, understand, and interpret the research findings better. 

Additionally, we assisted TIYO with grant and research proposal writing, IRBapplications, and the conduct of research activities, partly in the spirit of capacity building and partly in the spirit of enabling the organization to become financially independent from us concerning mental health activities. In this process, TIYO staff members became ethics-board certified, co-designed research projects, collected, analyzed, and interpreted data, and successfully submitted grant proposals and contributions for conferences within Kenya and worldwide.

Through all these activities, TIYO has grown to be one of the leading mental health organizations in Kenya since 2016. What is even more critical is that TIYO staff memberstrained other local organizations on mental health and advocacy. At this point, Kisumu County has about 50 organizations that integrate mental health into their activities. By doing so, TIYO amplified our training efforts and built an influential network of mental health advocates in Kisumu County. The stakeholders of this network could effectively collaborate with the Kisumu County legislative and executive, i.e., by establishing a mental health technical working group and having a separate budget allocation towards mental health. TIYO also supported other policy endeavors, such as compiling a Kisumu County-specific suicide prevention action plan, which was the first in Kenya (even before the national government published its plan years later); see here for more information. 

On The Move e.V. continues to support TIYO and other organizations in Kenya concerning mental health capacity building; however, at this point, the organizations we work with are financially independent and are not relying on our strategies or ideas anymore. On the contrary, in the spirit of cross- and transcultural learning, stakeholders from Kisumu County, including participants from the Erasmus+programGlobal Mental Health meets Social Innovation, now inspire mental health practitioners and trainees as well as community members from Germany with regards to building up high-quality community-based mental health interventions that provide equitable and optimal patient care. 

Find out more at: tinadaafrica.org

Brain Awareness Talk led by Tinada Youth Organization