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Mental illness calls for more attention

Sunday February 18 2018

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Mental illness is a major health challenge, and yet it receives little public attention.

Comparatively, the campaigns against killer diseases such as HIV/Aids, malaria, cancer and diabetes have benefitted from widespread public support, which has ensured more effective responses, including funding and the provision of other critical resources.

Available data from multiple sources shows that one in every four Kenyans suffers from mental illness at some stage in his/her life.

Unless checked, mental illness leads to serious problems, including suicide, homicide or other destructive behaviours.

Part of the problem is that mental illness carries a lot of stigma arising from association with psychological or emotional imbalances.

True, there is a wide body of knowledge that demonstrates how emotional challenges lead to depression.



Equally, there is evidence that attributes it to biological, social, economic and environmental factors.

Worse, some communities take a fatalistic view, relating such illnesses to a curse because of an aberration, and hence does not attract sufficient sympathy.

Whatever the cause, the perceived nexus between the disease and failure or other negative elements causes victims to struggle every day to suppress and acknowledge its devastations.

For example, statistics show that out of every six people suffering from mental illness, five do not seek treatment; meaning they or their families live in denial.


Yet, it is common knowledge that resolving a problem starts with an admission.

When victims fail to acknowledge their condition, it becomes more difficult to help them out.

The new information about the rising cases of mental illness should push the government and the public into action.

It is imperative to intensify awareness campaigns to sensitise the public and mobilise resources to contain mental illness, which is increasingly becoming a silent killer.

Individuals, families and communities need to take a more active role in helping to contain the disease, while the national and county governments should mobilise and provide adequate resources and facilities for the treatment and management of those afflicted.