• Dr Mwenesi said 450 cases of mental illnesses are reported and treated every month.
• The majority of the victims do not acknowledge that they have a problem.
Drug and substance abuse is to blame for the increased cases of mental illness in Garissa county, a task-force has said.
Dr Halima Mwenesi, who heads the national task-force on mental health, said residents are among the leading consumers of khat (miraa), which, in most cases, is taken alongside other prescription drugs that have adverse effects on mental health.
The medic addressed the press in Garissa town. She said mental health has been complicated by the fact that the majority of victims do not acknowledge that they have a problem that requires medical attention. The task-force has already collected views from nine counties across the country.
Mwenesi said Garissa, Mandera and Wajir require mental health hospitals following an upsurge in related cases. She blamed the problem on lack of awareness and stigma associated with mental disorders. Some cases emanate from depression that goes untreated.
Dr Mwenesi said 450 cases of mental illnesses are reported and treated every month but because the Garissa Level 5 Hospital has only a small psychiatric outpatient unit that also serves patients from Wajir and Mandera, most cases are referred to Mathare National Hospital in Nairobi. The task force later paid a courtesy call on county commissioner Meru Mwangi, who called for a concerted approach by the county and national governments in hiring additional psychiatrists and counsellors, who will identify potential mental cases and have them assisted before they become full-blown.
During oral submissions at Tana Gardens, retrogressive cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation were blamed for the surge in mental illnesses. It was noted that girls and women who had undergone the rite had difficulties giving birth and some were traumatised, hence suffering depression and other mental conditions.
The public impressed upon the government to allocate more resources for the identification and treatment of mental illnesses.