The Star (Kenya)
Hard economic times fuelling mental illness, task force told
Many people reportedly stressed by debts, unemployment, diseases and disasters
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