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State should fight mental health illnesses

Tuesday July 16 2019

SUICIDE

Individuals who contemplate committing suicide could be suffering from mental health problems. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

LUCIA NYASUNA
By LUCIA NYASUNA
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Many Kenyans are filled with sorrow and disappointment over the increasing cases of suicides and crimes of passion reported recently. This is a matter of great concern and a worrying trend is being set.

COMPANIONSHIP

The recent gruesome killing blamed on former Isukha MCA Richard Muchesia, who allegedly shot his wife Florence Okwach at their home in Ongata Rongai, Kajiado County, is appalling and outrageous.

And just this week in Thome, off Thika Road, a woman was reported to have killed her husband, strangled their two children and committed suicide.

On April 9, Moi University final year medicine student Ivy Wangeci was allegedly hacked to death at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret by her estranged lover.

These are dreadful, horrific, and vile events. I’m at a loss to understand whether it could be a state of despondency, depression or frustration.

Consequently, these trends are on an epic scale and have hit Kenyans like a bolt from the blue. Why can’t a couple just work through a relationship or get a divorce if things aren’t working? Do they have to end each other’s lives?

The main purpose of marriage and relationship is companionship and love. It seems the fibre holding the institution of marriage together has been undone and it’s clearly resulting in chaos.

These happenings are perennial and incessant and a way out is desperately required. However, majority of those who commit these heinous acts may not be aware that they could be suffering from mental disorders.

The State should assess the circumstances, treat the cases with utmost importance and come up with resolution to this menace. Therefore, the relevant authorities should pull an all-nighter and establish viable drills and policies to mitigate all the mental health risks.

SUB-OPTIMAL AID

A study conducted by the Nation had egregious but eye-opening findings. It revealed that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people aged 15-29.

The research also points out that one out of four people suffer a mental disorder at some point in their lives with Kenya ranking sixth in Africa with about two million people floundering and grappling with this monster called depression.

Perhaps what is vexing and terrifying is the inadequate and sub-optimal aid and backing for the mental health sector. There are only 62 psychiatrists in the country and no budget for mental health as is the case in the other 193 member states of the World Health Organisation.

Although nominated Senator Sylvia Kasanga has sponsored a bill to amend the Mental Health Act, no coherent and reasonable remedy has been forthcoming.

Clearly, there is a need for a more strategic approach strongly geared towards this emotional subject.

Basic truth does not change. Kenyans must, therefore, know that suicide is not the solution to their troubles, and the dogmatic mindset and that sense of entitlement and avoidance of responsibility must end.

There is a possibility of a moral transformation, however, which must start with the respect to human rights. You can disagree with your partner without maiming those of a contrary opinion to yours.

Ms Nyasuna, a freelance writer, is a master’s student. [email protected]

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