The Africa Mental Health Research and Training Foundation
The need for physical necessities such as medical care and food security often overshadows discussions of mental health care in developing countries. However, stress, trauma, violence and poverty exacerbate the need for sufficient mental health services. This makes a lack of these resources even more problematic. The Africa Mental Health Research and Training Foundation is working to fill this unmet need.

The Africa Mental Health Research and Training Foundation (AMHRTF)

Professor of Psychiatry David Ndetei founded AMHRTF in 2004. In addition to teaching at the University of Nairobi, Ndetei has written more than 250 journal articles and six books on mental health. This NGO is based in Nairobi, Kenya. It aims to provide affordable and accessible mental health care to Kenyans who might ordinarily struggle to access services. The organization’s network of researchers and mental health professionals tackle a range of mental health concerns, including suicide prevention, substance abuse and PTSD. In addition to providing clinical services, AMHRTF conducts research to inform public policy and enact innovative, larger-scale projects to provide Kenyans with mental health care regardless of income level.


Resources for mental health care in developing countries, like Kenya, are notoriously scarce. In higher-income countries, 5% of total health expenditures correspond to mental health services. In contrast, in lower-income countries, the expenditure is just 0.5%. However, deficits in mental health services have harsh fiscal consequences for nations already struggling with poverty. Low and middle-income countries lose approximately $870 billion each year, compensating for the effects of untreated mental health disorders, such as productivity loss.

One of the organization’s primary functions is providing Kenyans with affordable counseling services. Clients can book appointments with a network of mental health professionals for individual, couple, group and family therapy. These professionals provide services for anxiety, depression, family violence, personality disorders and PTSD. In addition, AMHRTF offers workshops and presentations to educate other companies and organizations.

Larger Projects

One of the primary challenges of providing mental health care in developing countries is a low concentration of professionals. As of 2016, there were a mere 100 psychiatrists in Kenya. Rural populations outside of Nairobi are especially underserved, with only one psychiatrist per 1 million Kenyans.

AMHRTF has facilitated other innovative, evidence-based solutions to broaden the reach of their organization. To combat a lack of accessible care, AMHRTF has partnered with the Columbia University Global Mental Health Program to form the TEAM initiative. Additionally, the innovative 2015 initiative was awarded nearly $1 million CAD in aid from the Canadian government. This bridges the influence of traditional healers with modern mental health car. Moreover, it works within preexisting structures as a way of reaching rural and underserved patients through trusted community leaders. Many Kenyans turn to traditional healers for help in times of distress. A referral program allows healers to identify and direct individuals to professional care.

Final Thoughts

Developing nations have a pressing demand for mental health services. However, these countries rarely have the resources to deliver sufficient care. To meet this demand, the Africa Mental Health Research and Training Foundation provides affordable mental health services for those in need, conducts research and initiates innovative projects that maximize Kenyans’ existing resources.

Stefanie Grodman
Photo: Flickr