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Activists urge authorities to prioritize on mental health

Mental health advocates in Laikipia County have called on the government to prioritize mental illness, as depression and anxiety accounted for high suicide cases in the country.

Susan Gathu, a mental health advocate with St. Martins Catholic Apostolate, regretted that most young people were affected, with stigmatization to blame among the depression cases amongst the teenagers.

She called on the government to increase its allocation of the annual healthcare budget to the provision of mental health services, and deploy more specialists to manage the situation at the grassroots.

“We only have two Psychiatric doctors serving in Laikipia and Nyandarua Counties, with no facility dedicated to mental health. A few private facilities in Nyahururu town have visiting specialists to attend to patient lists that continue to grow.

“Statistics show that in every four individuals in Kenya, one is mentally ill, with at least four percent of Kenyans likely to suffer from major mental health disorders in their lifetime,” noted Gathu.

Gathu, who called for a community approach in supporting the victims of mental health, noted that some signs of the illness included self-isolation and change of a common behaviour.

“Habouring suicidal thoughts, aggression and mood swings as well as hearing voices are some of the signs that one is suffering from mental illness,” said Gathu.

Gathu acknowledged the efforts made by many caregivers noting that marriage squabbles usually resulted in depression that in turn affected children.

“Children born to mentally ill parents should be made aware and the people around them so as to ensure that they are protected against behaviours which might trigger mental illness since it can be experienced at any age,” noted Gathu.

The non-governmental organization, which has drawn an elaborate plan on reaching victims as well as their care givers in parts of Laikipia, Baringo and Nyandarua Counties, called for communities to embrace mental health for a better society.

Gathu called on the young people to avoid indulging into behaviours such as drug and substance abuse which could lead to mental illness.

She also urged people to engage in activities which help in self therapy to avoid getting into mental illness saying changing routine, sharing and speaking out are great ways of managing the illness.

She said there is need for more mental health specialist in Laikipia County which happens to be one of the most affected counties in terms of suicide cases in the country.

By Anne Sabuni and Magdaline Muriithi

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