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Drugs blamed for mental illness in Kilifi

Abuse of narcotic drugs has been cited as the major cause of poor mental health among the youth in Kilifi County and the Coast region in general.

The problem, according to stakeholders, is compounded by the fact that drug addicts are considered social misfits who should be shunned by right-thinking members of the society as drug addiction is viewed as a self-inflicted malady.

The stakeholders told journalists at the Malindi Sub County Hospital that there was need for the national and county governments to set aside funds to address mental health issues with a view to having a mentally sound society.

The stakeholders, who included community health volunteers and village elders, were attending a one-day workshop on mental health organized by Health Rights Advocacy Forum (HERAF), a national nongovernmental organization that promotes a health system in human rights.

Ms Maureen Asembo, the organization’s coordinator for Kilifi County, said poverty and the current drought situation in the country, coupled with the never-ending drug addiction problem, were contributing immensely to the rise in Kenyans suffering from mental health issues.

“Statistics show that most of the people affected by poor mental health are the youth and this is largely due to abuse of narcotic drugs,” Asembo said, noting that since drug addiction is considered a self-inflicted problem, many of the youths are left on their own.

She said men were more affected by mental health issues than women since it is easy for women to share their problems with others than men, who she said usually seek solace in alcoholism and other pleasures that plunge them into even deeper problems.

Asembo said her organization had developed a five-year mental health and disability action plan aimed at actualizing the strategic objectives of the Kenya Mental Health Policy.

Ms Sofia Suleiman, a community health volunteer in Malindi town, said there was need for more pro-active actions to help the youth to overcome pressures that throw them into drug addiction that eventually cause them to suffer mentally.

“A big percentage of those suffering from mental health problems are the youth because they abuse drugs such as heroin, cocaine, bhang and muguka,” Suleiman said.

Mr. Aboud Omar, a village elder in Maweni kwa Famau within Malindi town, described mental health problems as a disaster, noting that many people were suffering silently as they do not know where to get help.

He said he would use the training received from the workshop to ensure that people suffering from mental health problems are exposed and helped, adding that unemployment had also contributed to the problem as many spend much time thinking on how to put food on the table.

By Emmanuel Masha

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