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Counsellors volunteer to tackle Mental health

Volunteer counsellors from Kakamega are reaching out to people who are silently battling mental health in the community, especially those who feel ashamed or fear seeking help.

They are visiting public and private institutions, including schools, community barazas, and churches, and also participating in medical camps to offer pro bono debriefing sessions and create a safe space for therapy.

A Counselling Psychologist Jacinta Waringa, who is also the secretary for the Kenya Association of Professional Counsellors Kakamega Chapter, said the counsellors will also refer patients for appropriate medical attention.

She added that they will connect those undergoing mental health challenges to counsellors nearer to them for monitoring and continuous briefing.

“Lucky enough, we have counsellors in all the 12 sub-counties, where we can make these appropriate referrals and let them know where they can find us. We also have counsellors in our hospitals where one can seek help,” she noted.

During the campaign, the counsellors also create awareness of the triggers and early signs of mental health, which are easily ignored.

“People think that mental health can affect other people and not them. We always exclude ourselves until we realize we are also victims,” she noted.

Statistics show that one person in a group of 10 suffers from mental health illnesses.

“When you get to our hospitals, whether in the private sector or the public sector, 20 to 25 per cent of inpatients and outpatients are also indicating the signs and symptoms of mental health illnesses,” Waringa said.

She noted that they have realized that men in Kakamega are reluctant to seek help as opposed to women, but she believes more will come for counselling.

“Reaching out to men is a bit challenging, there is that notion of not wanting to seek help,” she noted.

She explained that mental health can start from unmanaged stressful moments, from strained relationships with family members, or people at the workplace, among other triggers.

“The manifestation of mental health doesn’t start from something big; it starts from even insomnia, and sometimes you can even sleep too much. It comes with signs such as eating disorders or eating challenges; sometimes your appetite goes low or you eat too much again,” she added.

Other manifestations, according to Waringa, are emotional imbalances like an outburst of emotion, where a person gets irritated easily, when anyone passes by or gets closer to them.

“You may realize that sometimes even your interaction with other people is not at the level it used to be. You even start becoming abusive,” she pointed out.

By Moses Wekesa

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