Community health workers and other key staff at the forefront of the COVID-19 response in Kenya are receiving training in psychological first aid to help them look after their own mental health and well-being, and that of others.

The project, funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, is being carried out through a partnership between Amref Health Africa and governments in seven counties that have a high burden of COVID-19 cases: Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Bomet, Homabay, Migori and Siaya.

Lennah Kanyangi, Amref Health Africa Project Manager, says the first aid course follows a globally recommended model for supporting people during emergencies and is tailored to meet the specific challenges of COVID-19.

“The program aims to enable frontline health workers to develop their skills and confidence in providing key psychological support to people affected by the pandemic amidst the outbreak and beyond,” she says.

Four hundred volunteer community health workers have been trained, so far, on how to provide practical and emotional support to people affected by emergencies or crisis situations.

Gilbert Makokha, Chair of Kakamega Mental Health and Psychological Support, says that those completing the training will have an understanding of what psychological first aid is and will be able to identify who would benefit from support and how best to give help to different groups or situations.

“On completion of the training, the personnel will be equipped to better identify those in distress and provide support to help them feel safe, connected, calm and able to take steps to help themselves during the pandemic or any other critical situations,” he says.

Janet Maasai, Mumias West sub-county Community Health Service Coordinator, says that their staff has been working around the clock in the face of the challenge of COVID-19 and that’s why it is so important that staff are properly supported. She urged anyone with concerns about their mental health to come forward to either a colleague or the occupational health team or the helpline so that they can get help and the needed support.