The Defiant Mental Health Crisis in Kenya

The Defiant Mental Health Crisis in Kenya

By Caleb Kithikii

Over the past few weeks, our local tabloids and media houses have been completely overrun with saddening gut-wrenching news about people in attempt to take their own lives or even extending this despicable treacherous act to people around them especially their family. The son of a prominent figure in our country committed suicide is the most recent victim of depression. There are several predisposing factors that would otherwise bring about depression but what is quite common in this season is the coronavirus that is pushing people further over the edge.

The virus has almost completely impaired the country’s economy. Consequently, the effect of this blow has trickled down to the common ‘mwanainchi’ and with the futile efforts to cushion its people from the harsh economic scourge, the government has instead resorted to opening up the country which is a different conversation in its entirety. Statistically speaking, men are more susceptible to depression than women, especially in this season. This does not come as a surprise considering most men are the family’s’ breadwinners and with their source of livelihood cut off they are bound to fall into depression. However, to counter any misconstruable conclusion it should be noted that gender, ethnicity, and age are nonmodifiable factors for depression.

Covid-19 is a global pandemic and in many ways than most the virus has indeed put our resilience as human beings to the test and from what we have seen in the news it is unequivocal to avow that we all have a breaking point however relative that maybe. More than we would want to accept, mental health has been for a long time an elusive topic in our societies, and more than ever it’s high time we confront this ugly truth that has been staring back at us in the mirror.

Despite the significant strides the Ministry of Health in conjunction with several NGOs have made in sensitizing the masses, there is still a group of individuals who are either emotionally incapable to come to terms with this truth and ideally opt burying their heads in the sand and there are those who are completely oblivious of this atrocious ailment. Our society has in a heinous way cultured most men in becoming numb to their feelings or emotions and in their machoness they inadvertently lack the moral fortitude to ask for help when need be. They therefore suffering silently and when they can no longer carry that weight around their neck they then result to a more permanent solution tantamount to suicide.

Objectively speaking, with all the emotional and mental distress caused by the upsurge of the economic constrain, I will be sharing healthy tips you could put into practice to manage depression. But before we set the ball rolling, I should mention that the healing simply starts by stepping out from the shadows of denial and acknowledge there is need to get ahead of this condition. But first, how exactly would you know if you are suffering from depression? Well, be on the lookout for the following signs; Anxiety, hopelessness or feeling of unworthiness, Loss of interest and withdrawal from the community or family, interrupted sleeping pattern and an overwhelming feeling of fatigue, irritability and mood swings, change in appetite and finally suicidal thoughts close up the list. It should be noted that one doesn’t necessarily suffer depression if they exhibit an iota of the following listed signs.

Jumping right into it, one of the healthy ways to cope with depression is to connect with others, talk with people you trust about your struggle and concerns. More importantly, talk about how you are feeling. Establish a stable support system from family and friends or even from someone with some sort of spiritual authority depending on your faith. Secondly, take time to unwind and try to do something you enjoy as long as it helps you to get out of your head for a moment to clear your mind. You can engage in sports, social calls or visits and watch movies although social visits wouldn’t be ideal given the times we are living in but basically anything that tickles your interests.

On a more medical approach, psychotherapy treatment has also been proven to work. Talking to a psychiatrist helps people understand the root cause of the illness and start working on the problem towards healing. An individual can also be prescribed antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs to keep the condition in check. These medications boost the body’s absorption of the feel-good hormones from the brain leaving you a little less depressed. However, for mild cases, antidepressant medication should not be the first line of treatment.

And finally, education for people suffering from depression is extremely important. This provides knowledge that potentially gives the person greater control over their disorder which may in turn reduce the feeling of despair and boost their sense of well-being as well as pumping excitement back into their lives. Providing education for families is equally valuable to help increase the support bandwidth they provide to the individual. In severe cases of depression, the individual should be isolated to avoid self-harm or causing harm to others. Supervised sedation from a medical expert may be resorted to if an individual becomes violent.

According to the CDC, more than 42,000 people committed suicide in 2013 in the United States of America. With these stats in mind, it is quite exasperating seeing the society stigmatizing depression victims disregarding their mental hygiene. We clearly have a health crisis in our hands that urgently needs to be addressed before any more lives are claimed the coronavirus pandemic notwithstanding.

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds”- Laurell K. Hamilton

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