Depression: I bought 30 tablets and swallowed all

Winnie Maina-Omondi who runs a fish-thriving business in Eldoret. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Photo credit: Stanley Kimuge | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Alison Mulweye  took a bottle of acaricide, used to eliminate mites and ticks, and took a sip hoping it would end her life.
  • Winnie Maina-Omondi dropped out of school and also made an attempt on her life.
  • A Bill in the Senate sponsored by Nominated Senator Sylvia Kasanga, now seeks to support hundreds of patients battling mental illness in the country.

In 2016, at the height of severe depression, Alison Mulweye was sure she did not want to live anymore - she attempted to take her own life.

She took a bottle of acaricide, used to eliminate mites and ticks, and took a sip hoping it would end what she thought was unending misery.

The 53-year-old teacher at St Joseph’s Girls Secondary School Kipsaina in Keiyo South, Elgeyo-Marakwet County had it all, yet she wanted to end it.

She does not remember much of what happened after she sipped the poison as she lost consciousness only to find herself in a hospital bed.

“This was my worst attempt to take my life. I had several other episodes. I first tried to take my life while in college and then again in 2008. But this one of 2016, was the worst. I had to be out of school for months,” Ms Mulweye narrates.

At work, she was unable to concentrate and had started losing appetite, two things that immensely affected her social life.

Alison Mulweye, 53, a secondary school teacher who was diagnosed with severe depression. She later recovered to continue with her teaching work. 

Photo credit: Stanley Kimuge | Nation Media Group

Five years later, the mother of three has come out strong, having battled depression that she says needs to be monitored more closely going forward.

“If you notice someone with signs like loss of appetite or sleep or sudden change in behaviour, get close to them. Give that person the necessary psychological support they need,” she says.

She credits her employer, the Teachers Service Commission, her family and school management for standing with her at her time of need.

“Right now, I can perform my duties and take care of the children. Back then, I had to be closely supervised,” she says.

As the world marks Mental Health Awareness month in May, Ms Mulweye regrets that most people are going through mental issues but are overlooked or stigmatised by the society.

“Depression is not well understood, people perceive it as a curse and witchcraft.  I can say it is just an illness like catching a cold or malaria and is treatable,” she notes.

She has to visit a health facility for regular check-ups, besides constant administration of medication every three months.

She says the government should introduce reforms to help mental patients, including creating more facilities to support such patients. 

Ms Mulweye’s story is similar to that of Ms Winnie Maina-Omondi, who, despite being diagnosed with a mental illness, has come out strong. She now runs a thriving fish business in Eldoret.

Winnie Maina-Omondi and Sheila Jepkorir, who were both diagnosed with mental disorder share their recovery journey. May is the mental health awareness month.

Photo credit: Stanley Kimuge | Nation Media Group

The 27-year-old was diagnosed with bipolar at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Eldoret in 2013.

She dropped out of school and like Ms Mulweye, made an attempt on her life.

One day, Ms Omondi walked into a chemist, bought 30 tablets and swallowed them all.

“I thank God because He saved me. I am also glad someone helped me and took me to hospital. I always advise people to open up whenever they are depressed so that they can get help,” she says.

In 2016, she met her husband. She says he has been instrumental in her journey of overcoming mental illness.

Thriving fish business

“I explained about my condition and I am glad he accepted me,” she states.

She regrets that the society still perceives those with such condition negatively.

“Most people don’t even know they are mentally ill,” she advises.

Today, Ms Omondi is a fishmonger, running a thriving fish business at Kapsoya Shopping Centre with her husband.

Sheila Chepkorir was also diagnosed with bipolar. She says it is important for those going through this condition to accept it.

“Once you accept this condition, you will get help. You get medication and you will be able to do normal chores like anyone else,” observes Ms Chepkorir, who runs a milk bar business.

Mental health councils

Aware of these challenges, a Bill in the Senate sponsored by Nominated Senator Sylvia Kasanga, now seeks to support hundreds of patients battling mental illness in the country.

It seeks to compel the 47 counties to set aside funds to employ mental health practitioners to bridge the shortage in the country.

The Bill is also pushing for the creation of mental health councils in the 47 counties and set up mental health boards to oversee such matters.

“The bill promotes getting help at the community level than being locked in hospital. National government will also ensure mental health awareness is raised in schools,” it reads.

A report by the lawmaker titled The Status of Mental Health in Kenya singles out stigma, discrimination and knowledge gap as among the hindrances to access to mental healthcare in Africa.

The report shows that counties like Kisumu and Makueni have introduced measures to assist mental health patients. Makueni, for instance, has integrated mental health in its health system, while Kisumu set up a mental health secretariat in 2019. 

“Makueni adopted informal health sector where traditional and faith healers and community health volunteers are the first line of treatment,” notes the senator in the report.


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