Mental health has been a major concern as statistics show one in every four Kenyans experiences mental illness at some point in their lives.
That means that 12 million Kenyans will require medical care.
Over 45 million individuals are served by 88 consultant psychiatrists and about 500 psychiatric nurses in Kenya.
The Taskforce on Mental Health had suggested that in order to give mental disease top priority on the public health and socioeconomic agendas, it should be proclaimed a National Emergency of Epidemic Proportions.
Mental disorders (or mental illnesses) are conditions that affect your thinking, feeling, mood and behaviour. They may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic).
Speaking to The Informer Director, Kibera Human Development Project medical doctor, Stanley Simiyu notes that mental health includes many different types of mental disorders.
“Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, depression, bipolar disorder, mood disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia,” he stated.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood to adolescence through adulthood.
Mental health is a conversation that needs to be had without reservations so as to make it easier for people with mental illnesses to ask for help, acquire coping mechanisms and begin the recovery process, which benefits our communities.
Additionally, mental health encompasses more than simply mental diseases. It also involves preserving a feeling of well-being.
“And if you’re wondering whether one person’s efforts can make a difference, the answer is, ‘Absolutely!’ Every conversation you have about the importance of recognising and treating mental illness creates a ripple that reaches people in your circle and far beyond it,” the doctor noted.
It can be challenging to distinguish between actions that are normal and those that can indicate a mental disorder.
There is no quick test that can determine whether a person has a mental disease, whether their actions and ideas are simply typical human tendencies, or whether they are the result of a physical ailment.
Simiyu indicates signs and symptoms can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors. Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
“Feeling sad or down,confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate, excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt, extreme mood changes of highs and lows, withdrawal from friends and activities, significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping,detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations, inability to cope with daily problems or stress, trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people, problems with alcohol or drug use, major changes in eating habits, sex drive changes, excessive anger, hostility or violence and suicidal thinking are signs and symptoms that could indicate mental illness,” he said.
Mental health disorders appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headaches, or other unexplained aches and pains.