Do you know about depression as a disease or as something that afflicts ‘others’? Have you seen someone going through a tumultuous path and concluded they were mad? Are you the kind quick to dismiss people with depression as ‘Mathare case”?
There are loads of ways that ignorance and discrimination against people dealing with depression manifests. There is the occasional ‘ako kwa zile moods zake” or ‘she is just pretending’. These attitudes impede care. They limit the safe spaces where someone going through depression can just be.
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It is a rising public health concern. There are about 2 million Kenyans living with depression according to a WHO report. In the African map, Kenya ranks 6th in the number of people dealing with depression.
More and more young people are becoming depressed and consequently committing suicide. There is no specific data that speaks to the prevalence of suicide amongst the youth. But the reported cases are a pointer to a darker place that society needs to illuminate. What remains unreported, seen as that suicide is a crime in Kenya, is a grey area that needs further investigation.
Simply put, depression is larger than most of us want to admit.
What you need to know
Depression is the biggest cause of suicides in Kenya. Many others attempt suicide.
The major risk factors are poverty and unemployment. Physical illness can lead to depression as well as losing a loved one or substance use.
Stigma stifles progress. Because of stigma, 1 in every 20 Kenyans prefer to take their mentally-ill patient to a faith healer for prayers ‘kuwekelwa mkono’ or to a witch-doctor. The assertion that demons and the devil are responsible for mental health issues further stigmatise an already under-rated disease.
Depression can be treated. If you have depressive symptoms, seek help. If you are a carer or know someone who has depression, your is to offer support, not ridicule.
Institutions should have support systems. The least you need when going through it is an ignorant boss, teacher, doctor or even friend.