4.7 M suffers from mental disorders expert warns

Nairobi November 18, 2019 – About 4.7 million people are suffering from depression and other forms of mental illnesses in Kenya which translates to one in every four persons, experts warn.

Speaking during a media briefing breakfast on the Mental Health Conference in Nairobi the Director of Mental Health, Dr Simon Njuguna advised society to avoid stigmatizing or ostracizing those afflicted by mental illnesses arguing that depression and other mental illnesses do not discriminate and can afflict anyone despite their status in society.

“Some doctors, engineers, teachers and lawyers are among some of the professionals who are currently afflicted by mental illnesses and we therefore need to ensure they access treatment and care and society, therefore needs to change its attitude against those who are afflicted by empathizing with them,” Dr Njuguna noted.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in a report titled “Young people and mental health in a changing world’’ released during last year’s World Mental Health Day held on October 10 warned that half of mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected.

In terms of burden of the disease among adolescents, depression is the third leading cause while suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15—29 year olds.

According to WHO, more than 350 million people suffer from depression globally with 20 million people attempting to commit suicide annually. Some one million succeed in their bid, which translates to 3,000 deaths every day.

Experts say there are 300 different types of mental illness and there is need to demystify the existing myths on the diseases to enable those suffering from the diseases to seek treatment.

Dr Njuguna observed that those afflicted by mental illness are “not cursed nor possessed by demons” and should be provided with the necessary care and support by their relatives and community at large.

The Director said the Ministry of Health  is currently implementing the QualityRights Mental Health which aims at transforming mental health and social services and to promote human rights of people with mental health conditions or psychosocial, intellectual and cognitive disabilities.

He announced that the Ministry and other partners will hold the 1st ever Kenya Mental Health Conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) Nairobi from November 21 to 22 2019.