A ward administrator stole the show at a public participation forum in Wote town, Makueni County, when he sensationally recounted his ''close shave'' with mental illness.
Nzambani Assistant Ward Administrator James Kyalo told the Mental Health Task Force, which was collecting views on the state of mental health in the country' that he had been addicted to bhang, muguka and another hard drug called C17 that comes from Tanzania.
Mr Kyalo said he slid into substance abuse after graduating from college in 2012, thanks to wrong company.
When he hired a local artist to write a signboard leading to his phone repair workshop in Kambu township, the artist wrote ''Fundi Wazimu'' (crazy technician).
“The shop has since been drawing curious clients because I decided to keep the wrong signage,” he said on Tuesday amid laughter.
Mr Kyalo is among dozens of young people who have been rehabilitated through a programme initiated by Governor Kivutha Kibwana.
But he had already burnt his fingers by the time he stopped using drugs.
“Drug abuse cost me a good family – my wife and child left me when I became unruly and disorganised,” he said.
He challenged Kenyans to reach out to drug addicts and try to help them reform.
Governor Kibwana called for increased funding for mental health programmes.
“The relevant government institutions should also put their foot down to control muguka and cheap alcohol which make its consumers more like zombies,” he said.
Ms Nazi Kivutha, the governor’s wife, underscored the importance of counselling in identifying and addressing mental illnesses.
Makueni Health Executive Andrew Mulwa said that although mental health is a neglected healthcare area, it has a bearing on overall health.
He said 30 to 40 per cent of patients seeking treatment in county hospitals suffer from mental illnesses.
The task force, chaired by Dr Frank Njenga, was formed in the wake of rising depression and deaths related to mental sickness.