Kenyans should be educated on rising mental health issues

Most 'madmen' are just depressed people whose illness has not been addressed

In Summary

• This year's World Mental Health Day should aim at helping mentally challenged Kenyans lead lives with dignity. 

• People with mental health in Kenya have difficulty finding help as they are treated as drug users. 

Patients at the Mathare Mental Hospital
NOT MAD, JUST SICK: Patients at the Mathare Mental Hospital
Image: FILE

People always go for treatment when they are ill but take very long to notice or take a relative or friend for a mental check-up even if it is depression.

As we mark the World Mental Health Day today, people wear t-shirts with mental health messages and march the streets to sensitise everyone on the importance of being in good mental health to be able to carry out our daily activities. The day is also meant to celebrate people suffering from mental health challenges in a bid to make them embrace their condition as normal. 

The goal of this year’s Mental Health Day is to help raise awareness to help people dealing with mental health lead better lives with dignity. Most people, instead of helping a mentally challenged person, make jokes out of their illness and sometimes even harass them. Security forces don’t do much to help the person perceived to have escaped from Mathare Mental Hospital.

They are seen as a threat to the community. ln Mombasa county, a mentally challenged man who used to hang around Kongowea market 10 years ago is still there, begging along the streets and dealing with glares from the ‘normal’ public who call him a mad man.

But has anyone ever considered taking him to the hospital to find out what really ails him? Locals nicknamed him Bushman Kitako as he was always in shorts which were bare at the back. There isn’t much weight in the assertion that these cases arise from effects of the heat of the Coastal city on people who use drugs; mental challenges are purely biological. The drugs were just a trigger.

What we should do is back the fight against drugs and check on our friends. It is easier to get to the bottom of why they turn to drugs in the first place. 



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