The Star (Kenya)

Hard eco­nomic times fu­elling men­tal ill­ness, task force told

Many peo­ple re­port­edly stressed by debts, un­em­ploy­ment, diseases and dis­as­ters

- MAGDALINE SAYA

Kenyans have at­trib­uted the grow­ing cases of men­tal ill­ness to hard eco­nomic times.

In sub­mis­sions to the men­tal health task force, Kenyans as­so­ci­ated the rise in men­tal health cases to the ef­fects of eco­nomic melt­down caused by en­demic run­away cor­rup­tion.

They want the gov­ern­ment to in­crease the na­tional bud­get for men­tal health pro­grammes.

Most peo­ple are stressed by per­sonal debts, low in­come, un­em­ploy­ment, re­trench­ment, diseases and dis­as­ters like floods, land­slides and drought.

Prof Lukoye At­woli, a task force mem­ber, said other fac­tors com­monly men­tioned by Kenyans are drug and sub­stance abuse and de­pres­sion as­so­ci­ated with chronic ill­nesses such as hy­per­ten­sion.

“Most talked about drugs de­pend­ing on the var­i­ous places we went to. For in­stance at the Coast, heroine was the most men­tioned while in ru­ral parts of Kenya things like al­co­hol, bhang and mi­raa were the most con­trib­u­tors,” At­woli said yes­ter­day.

The task force was con­sti­tuted on Novem­ber 21 and in­au­gu­rated on De­cem­ber 11 by Health CS Si­cily Kar­iuki.the team is ex­pected to for­mu­late poli­cies to ad­dress grow­ing con­cerns about men­tal health among Kenyans.

“There are many fac­tors, so you can’t sin­gle out one spe­cific cause and at­tach it to an in­di­vid­ual,” At­woli said.

De­pres­sion is the most com­mon men­tal ill­ness, af­fect­ing more than 300 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

A re­cent re­port re­leased by WHO on the world men­tal health sit­u­a­tion places Kenya as the sixth most de­pressed coun­try in Africa.

De­pres­sion is also the lead­ing cause of dis­abil­ity. If not at­tended to, it can lead to sui­ci­dal thoughts.

WHO es­ti­mates that about 800,000 peo­ple com­mit sui­cide ev­ery year and it is the sec­ond lead­ing cause of death among youth age 15 to 29 glob­ally. “Sub­stance use dis­or­ders should be brought to the men­tal health ta­ble and clas­si­fied at men­tal is­sues rather than a se­cu­rity or moral is­sue,” Evan Oloo from In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of Sub­stance Use told the task force.

There are more than 200 clas­si­fied forms of men­tal ill­ness and many peo­ple suf­fer from more than one men­tal dis­or­der at a given time, states the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion.

Be­sides de­pres­sion, some of the more com­mon dis­or­ders are bipo­lar dis­or­der, de­men­tia and schizophre­nia, which glob­ally af­fect about 60 mil­lion, 48 mil­lion and 21 mil­lion peo­ple re­spec­tively.

The task force led by Frank Njenga is ex­pected to present the re­port to the gov­ern­ment by Fe­bru­ary 28.

Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta di­rected the min­istry to es­tab­lish the task force in the wake of ris­ing de­pres­sion and men­tal sick­ness-re­lated murder and sui­cide cases.

Uhuru said the find­ings of the task force will as­sist the gov­ern­ment in the al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources to men­tal health.

DE­PRES­SION IS THE MOST COM­MON FORM OF MEN­TAL ILL­NESS

 ?? /MAR­GARET WANJIRU ?? Mem­bers of the men­tal health task force Hal­ima Mwe­n­esi, Frank Njenga and Lukoye At­woli ad­dress the press in Nairobi, urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to al­lo­cate one per cent of the bud­get to men­tal health­care
/MAR­GARET WANJIRU Mem­bers of the men­tal health task force Hal­ima Mwe­n­esi, Frank Njenga and Lukoye At­woli ad­dress the press in Nairobi, urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to al­lo­cate one per cent of the bud­get to men­tal health­care
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