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Kena Health gives you easy access to digital mental health services

The app connects you to nurses, doctors and mental health professionals through text, video calls and voice calls

Research indicates that 65% of young people in SA have had a mental health issue, but did not seek help.
Research indicates that 65% of young people in SA have had a mental health issue, but did not seek help.
Image: Supplied/Kena Health

Mental Health Awareness needs to remain a focus area for SA, with the continued high symptoms of anxiety and depression worsened by financial strain and the rising cost of basic goods.

In addition to the high cost of living and fuel price increases, rolling power blackouts caused by load-shedding have added to the stress. South Africans also have to navigate the demands of running businesses and households with interrupted power supply. 

Recent findings from a Unicef SA U-Report poll indicate that 65% of young people have had a mental health issue, but did not seek help. Discussing and addressing the barriers to seeking help is critical and digital mental health solutions are helping to address those barriers.

The Kena Health app has dramatically improved access to mental health professionals through a private, affordable and remote access service. The app allows South Africans to chat to a doctor, nurse or mental health professional. Since its launch in March 2022, 25% of its consultations have been for mental health issues related to depression, anxiety and stress.

The solution begins with awareness

The biggest barrier to getting help is not knowing there’s a problem. Mental health is seldom taught or addressed in schools and there’s minimal awareness on the symptoms of different mental health conditions. People who need mental health help often misidentify symptoms or their causes, and struggle with them for months or years. They excuse them or believe they’re caused by something else. This is worsened by the cultural stigma that often surrounds mental illness.

One of the few silver linings of the pandemic is that more people have realised they’re not alone in experiencing depression, anxiety, grief, trauma and other mental health conditions — and have become more open to talking about their experiences.

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

How Kena Health is improving access to mental health services 

According to the SA Society of Psychiatrists, there are only 1.52 psychiatrists for 100,000 people and these 1.52 are mostly available in the biggest provinces, which are Gauteng and Western Cape. In comparison, European countries have more than 30 psychiatrists for 100,000 people, almost 20 times more than the SA average. 

Psychiatrists are fundamental to correctly diagnosing and prescribing the correct medication for mental health conditions. Kena Health has observed a similar shortage in psychologists and mental health counsellors. This results in long waiting 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 their area while lowering the cost, Kena Health is making counselling affordable for more people. 

One of the ways Kena Health is realising this is through a process that allows a mental health counselling session to be done over text, while maintaining complete privacy. More than 50% of Kena Health’s mental health consultations have been done using text only, making it the most popular option, followed by voice calls, then video calls.

Kena Health offers the first three consultations for free, until August 9 2022, charging a nominal fee thereafter. Terms and conditions apply. 

A third of all consultations are repeat consults and at least a quarter are mental health related. In addition, Kena Health’s service runs uninterrupted during load-shedding periods, another uniquely SA barrier to access

Improving access and helping people feel more comfortable, private and secure when seeking help, contributes to greater education and understanding — improving 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.

This article was paid for by Kena Health.