As Kenya marked World Mental Health Day yesterday, World Health Organization launched a
campaign to raise awareness for suicide prevention in Africa which has the world’s highest rates
of death by suicide. Around 11 per 100 000 people in Africa die by suicide every year, higher
than the global average of nine per 100 000 people. This is due in part to insufficient action to
address and prevent the risk factors, including mental health conditions which currently affect
116 million people.
We meet a woman in Kisii, Gladys Gesare who narrates how she has been struggling with
depression. She is just one of the thousands in the country who have been struggling with the
same. She narrates how it started. She says that her husband was ‘beating’ her psychologically.
He was insulting and quarrelling her every time.
Her marriage disintegrated, leaving her without business, a husband and children. Depression
took the lead but she didn’t notice. She said that her life meant nothing to her at that moment.
“Mimi sikuwai jua mi ni mgonjwa hadi nikapewa dawa lakini sikujua ni za nini ndipo
nikamwona therapist akaniuliza madawa ambayo nameza ndipo akaniambia.” Gladys.
“I didn’t notice that I was sick, even I was given some medicine but still I didn’t know the
purpose of the medicine, until I went to a therapist and he asked me about the medicine that am
using and informed me about it.” Gladys.
She noticed that she was indeed suffering and seek medical attention and now she is curing bit by
bit. She is one of the many who suffers from mental health issues but do not know. Health
practitioners says that many suffer from kinds of mental health problems and they do not know
when and where to seek help.
“We realized that mental health is actually a challenge that is real and cuts across the community
and while on duty, we have come to realize that has not spared any sector. Almost every sector
today has been affected and mental health issues and challenges…” George Masegere
A report from the taskforce of mental health of 2020 indicated that 75% of Kenyans are unable
to easily access mental health services. The report also shows that mental illnesses like
depression, suicide, substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses
account for 13% of the entire disease burden in Kenya.
WHO says that resources to handle mental health care issues falls short of the demand and this is
evident in Kenya. Some health officers have said that the government should introduce or
increase the mental health budget in Kenya. This may help to buy modern medication equipment
for the mental health issues and equip the various county hospitals in the country.
Stakeholders want the county and national governments to increase allocation for mental
healthcare budget from the current 15 cents to 150 shillings per capita. This is just one of the
ways that local and global actors hope will help reduce number of people affected by mental
health issues that is currently close to 1 billion people globally.
People are advised in general to speak up always when they are suffering from any kind of
mental disorder including depression because it is dangerous to keep it to oneself and maybe
later it may affect the person negatively.
By Calvin Angatia