“I need to talk to someone, I think I am falling into depression.” I read that Facebook post from one of my closest friends and panicked. I tried to call her several times but she was unreachable. She later said she just needed some time out.
I thought I was overreacting at first but some quick research proved otherwise. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the most common illness worldwide. In 2017, they estimate that 450 million people were affected by depression globally while Kenya was ranked the 4th in Africa with 1.9 million.
Depression is a mood disorder characterised by a persistently low mood, feelings of sadness and loss of interest. It is a persistent problem, not a passing one, lasting on average six to eight months.
Nation.co.ke spoke to three people who have undergone depression:
Martin Wachira, 40
The father of two is a Bachelor in Education graduate from Kenyatta University and had been a high school teacher of Mathematics and Business Studies for nine years before his depression symptoms became severe, which made him abscond his duties as a teacher. He was suspended in July, 2018.
“I was an alcohol addict, and in 2012 I decided to quit but I became very sick. I had blurred vision, impaired speech and I couldn’t walk. When I went to hospital, I was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder. I am now on daily medication,” he says.
Martin says some of his family and friends stigmatise him. He attempted suicide twice by taking Triatix -- a spray for the control of ticks.
“My sleep patterns changed. I felt extremely sad, and I was easily agitated and fatigued. I wanted to be alone,” he says.
Martin went back to taking alcohol again and his family took him to Jomec Rehabilitation Center in Nakuru.
"They put in Naltrexone implant under my skin to help suppress my alcohol urge," he says.
Depression affected his daily life. But he started counselling sessions and he is on the road to recovery.
“The only way I could get help is to admit that I needed it, that was my first step to recovery and I feel I am ready to go back to work."
Evaline Muleka, 42
“I had a hard time growing up. My parents separated when I was hardly two years old. I grew up with my dad and step mother. Life was really not easy for me,” says Evaline.
This saw her dropping out of school in Form Two and getting married at 17. For five years in her marriage, she was a victim of emotional and physical abuse from her husband.
She developed the fear of expressing herself to the father of her three children as she would be severely beaten up if she did so.
"I smoked weed, tried muguka and drunk alcohol, all in trying to find solace, but I later quit as it didn’t help," she says.
“I attempted suicide twice. I once bought kerosene, poured it on myself and in the house. As I was almost lighting a matchstick, my husband came in and rescued me.”
But one day she decided she had had enough and left for Nakuru with her two-day-old baby to start her life afresh.
Certain symptoms she was having worried her enough to go to hospital, where she was diagnosed with depression.
“I couldn’t sleep and was withdrawing from people. I became very temperamental and was often disoriented,” she says.
“I remember one day I beat my last born mercilessly until he lost consciousness. I poured cold water on him and continued beating him. I didn't stop until my neighbours came to his rescue.”
In 2016, she was diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes, and she suffered a stroke. She is currently undergoing physiotherapy sessions at Psychiatric Disability Organization in Nakuru and is still on daily medication for depression.
Enoch Muriithi, 28
Enoch’s father was an alcoholic who used to call him a failure ever since he was young boy. This drove him to drug and alcohol abuse. Luck seemed to be on his side after Form Four when he was recruited into the General Service Unit (GSU).
His father, however, conned him of his hard-earned cash and in 2017, his fiancée suffered a miscarriage. Enoch believes these events contributed greatly to his depression diagnosis later in life.
Like Evaline and Martin, Enoch started experiencing depression symptoms too but did not know what it was. He was sad, withdrawn, talked a lot to himself and had trouble sleeping.
“I didn’t know I was depressed. One day, my fiancé and I hired a car and we drove off to Malaba. For days, the owner of the car could not reach me on phone and he had to report the car missing,” he says.
He simply refused to answer his calls.
Later, he realised he was suffering from one of the signs of depression -- withdrawal. Withdrawal and inactivity have been known to feed depression.
He was taken to Bungoma Police Station before he was handed over to personnel from GSU headquarters. He was then taken to Nairobi Women’s Hospital and later referred to Mathari Hospital where he was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. He was put on depression medication.
It was not until he was referred to Psychiatric Disability Organization (PDO) that his condition greatly improved. He attends counselling sessions once a week.
“I can comfortably admit that I am getting better, my speech has improved, and I feel 28 again,” Enoch adds.
About Psychiatric Disability Organization
Iregi Mwenja was inspired to start Psychiatric Disability Organization in Nakuru after being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at 35.
ADHD is a chronic condition that includes attention difficulty, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
In 2012, he resigned from his job as a director of Born Free Foundation in pursuit of fulfilment, and in 2016 he started the Psychiatric Disability Organization (PDO) in Nakuru with the aim of bringing together people with mental health conditions.
Iregi Mwenja was inspired to start Psychiatric Disability Organization in Nakuru after being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at 35. PHOTO| AYUB MUIYURO
“I wanted to be the voice to propel advocacy, create awareness and to provide help for free especially to the less fortunate. Nobody should suffer segregation or stigmatisation because of depression,” he says
PDO offers physiotherapy and counselling sessions. Iregi also organises monthly hikes, dances and outdoor activities as it is therapeutic for his patients, he adds.
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