May is the Mental Health Awareness Month. Due to the unprecedentedly high cost of living, the global economic recession occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, widespread poverty and hopelessness, mental health has become a conundrum.
Many Kenyans are experiencing anxiety, loneliness, hopelessness, discouragement, desperation, doubts, fears, sadness, grief, poverty, low self-esteem, bitterness, sickness, poor relationship problems, conflicts, domestic violence and uncertainties.
Some workers cannot withstand the emotional and psychological turbulence triggered by job losses, hence mental aberration. Many people have abandoned themselves to fate and mental trauma. They are tormented by the storms of stress and depression.
Research after research has indicated that one in ten people in Kenya suffer from mental disorders. No wonder, statistics from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations indicate that up to 483 people died by suicide in the country three months to June 2021 while the 2011 Kenya National Commission on Human Rights report showed 25 per cent of outpatients and 40 per cent of in-patients attending health facilities suffered from mental illness.
“WHO Mental Health Atlas 2014” data shows more than four per cent of the world's population lives in a country with less than one psychiatrist for every 100,000 people.
Admittedly, mental healthcare has been the Cinderella service for donkey’s years. National and county governments should give it its deserved seriousness by allocating more funds to the sector, creating awareness and setting up facilities.
Information is power, more so in today’s world; providing a 24/7 toll-free number for victims of mental disorders would be a great step in the right direction. The stigma and discrimination associated with mental disorders cause psychological wounds, hence the need to be empathetic to the victims. Let’s make every day a mental health day.
Mr Muthama teaches business and strategic management at JKUAT. [email protected].