Data speaks volumes. It is for this reason that mental health in Kenya matters. A lot. According to WHO statistics, Kenya ranks 6th in Africa with about 1.9 million people suffering from depression.
Depression is the most common mental health illness worldwide. Yet, mental health issues have not been advocated for aggressively. The fledgeling health infrastructure, lack of awareness makes a bad case, worse.
Kenya health the first-ever national mental health conference this week, with the aim of making mental health a priority and part of the socioeconomic agenda. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world, according to WHO.
Duncan Muchiri is an ex-banker. He explains how the loss of his wife Monica led him to depression.
“After she died, life became very difficult because we had a 2-year-old baby. And after the burial, everyone dispersed, including my closest family and friends”, narrates Duncan.
It is the norm. After burials, everyone returns to their lives. And the grieving family is left to face
“I never knew that I was undergoing depression which affected my performance at work, until my boss called me one day, to give me a warning letter over underperformance”, continues Duncan.
Duncan says life became a maze.
“I started drinking, being absent from work and violent to everyone. That was when the management fired me. And life became hell for me and my son”, explains Duncan.
According to Duncan, he has contemplated suicide a couple of times but was saved by neighbours. At some point, he was taken to Moi Teaching and Referral hospital for counselling and rehabilitation.
Sylvia a 28-year-old mother of a 3 weeks newborn narrates how she underwent postpartum depression. The birth of her child came with rejection by her boyfriend and family.
“It was my worst experience because, at some point, I hated my baby and wanted to kill her. The feeling was so strong that the nurses had to separate me from the child,” narrates Silvia.
“I had no one to turn to because I was seen as a black sheep in the family. I had to undergo counselling in order to accept my situation. Am glad I am now better, although still under medication and supervision”, continues Sylvia.
Challenges To Mental Health In Kenya
According to Dr Saina, a Psychiatrist at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, these are among the many cases that are brought on a daily basis. These are the main challenges to mental health issues in Kenya.
- Lack of awareness
- Traditions and beliefs like witchcrafts
- Mental illness Treatment costs
“Cases linked to depression may be triggered by the loss of a loved one, a job, financial constraints, divorce, chronic illness, failure, among others,” explains Dr Saina.
“It is important to watch signs of depression such as withdrawal, violence, change of lifestyle, suicidal notes, irresponsibility, absenteeism, loss of appetite/sleep, verbal expression among others. Seek medical attention if need be.”, adds Dr. Saina.
Where You Can Get Help
First, it is worth noting mental health is a serious health issue and there is no shame in seeking care. Just like Malaria or a cough, you need to seek care if you are experiencing a mental health illness.
But where do you go?
- Befrienders Kenya specializes in education about mental health. Pay they a visit on their website or call these numbers +254736542304 or +254722178177.
- Amani Counselling Center This is also a training facility but at the bottom of this page there is useful information on where you can find them
- Nairobi Mental Health Services Clinic, Location: KMA Center, third-floor room 302. Phone number 0714972228
- Kenyatta National Hospital: Mental Health Department
This is Kenya’s largest referral hospital. You can call these numbers, Telephone:
- Mathari National Teaching & Referral Hospital Nairobi
This facility specializes in mental health issues although it has other services it offers.
Telephone: 0202337694, 020337694
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