Drugs blamed for mental illness in Murang'a

Mental illness an ailment like any other, prompt treatment and family support are essential

In Summary

• Mental facility in Murang'a Level 5 Hospital receives as many as 20 patients a day, mostly treated and discharged.

•Psychiatrists say after tests, most cases are found to have been triggered by heavy drug use.

Samples of drugs that were found at a house./FILE
Samples of drugs that were found at a house./FILE

Increased psychiatric episodes in Murang’a county have caused concern among residents.

Angela Muthoni, a psychiatric nurse in Murang’a Level 5 Hospitals, most cases of illness and episodes are attributed to heavy bhang smoking. Many use other drugs as well. 

She said the hospital sees patients throughout the month, mostly men aged 15 to 39 years.

They see 10 to 20 patients a day, mostly treated and discharged.

Muthoni said tests carried indicate that their conditions are triggered by excessive drug use that overwhelms their bodies.

Drugs are easily available, even to students, she said.

Muthoni said the treatment of drug addiction and mental conditions is sensitive and requires support from patients’ families and society. Some people relapse when they fail to get adequate support. 

“Drug abuse can cause delusions that may prompt patients to take their lives,” she said.

Central region has only two mental health treatment centres. The other is in Nyeri general hospital.

Psychiatrist James Mburu said the mental ward has 20 beds.

The hospital conducts outreach services.

The facility also receives many requests for mental assessment of murder suspects by courts.

“In eight months, the psychiatric ward has received over 60 mental assessment requests on murder suspects in Murang'a county," Mburu said.

The county records about four suicides a day, which he called alarming.

Societal changes and increasing life pressures aggravate stress and mental conditions and illness, Mburu said.

This calls for community programmes to create awareness and sensitise residents on the need to treat mental issues promptly.

“We need policies putting more emphasis on mental health and more investment in human capital and medication," Mburu said.

The facility works with medical social workers who counsel patients’ family members to ensure they accept and support their ailing relatives.

“We have challenges convincing families that mental illness is a condition like any other and it can only be completely cured where patients have their support,” the psychiatrist said.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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