Roselyne Gombe-Kenya

  • September 26, 2020 at 3:37 am #2883
    Daniel Ochieng

    Mental health is generally termed as a state of emotional, psychological and social well-being. It is a pertinent concern in the world we live in. Mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, affect millions of people worldwide. They impose an enormous global disease burden that leads to premature mortality and affects functioning and quality of life. This year, for the first time in our generation’s existence, we are experiencing a global pandemic. This pandemic has curtailed and continues to threaten many aspects of our lives as youth right from our education to our social life to our ambitions and even our potential employment opportunities. Now, more than ever, youth mental health is a fundamental concern. For us the organizers of The Kectil Program, it is even more crucial as we have more than 700 young leaders-in-training during our 2020 cohort.
    Further, in many countries across the globe, the lockdowns and the cessation of movement orders during this pandemic have continued to heighten anxiety and strain to the mental health of youth. It is also affecting those who already have pre-diagnosed mental conditions, causing the exacerbation of their conditions. Although it affects youth, we cannot discount how parents, teachers and healthcare workers are also struggling with mental health. Even in the countries where there are relaxed measures, mental health of youth is still a concern as some youth have lost their jobs, others have lost their family members and friends and others are experiencing financial difficulties.
    According to the World Health Organization, about 800,000 people die every year due to mental health issues. Given the current state of affairs, this number is set to rise and the youth are at the epicentre of these figures. However, there is a silver lining as youth across the globe are not letting this pandemic define their mental health and are championing for mental health in their countries. In Kenya for instance, a global mental health champion called Nadia Abdalla started the “Kenya is me” series to encourage youth to spread positivity and shares tips on how to look after one’s mental health during this period. In the same vein, the United Nations Envoy on Youth initiated a coping with COVID webinar series that is focused on providing youth with a platform to exchange ideas and deal with their mental health together.
    We would like to hear your thoughts on this.
    1. We attach three articles for you to read:
    · Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 (World Health Organization)
    · Mental Health – Our World in Data (Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser, April 2018)
    · United Nations Report on Mental Health

    They are very profound and informative articles. My take home are the 4 action points by WHO. It makes us easier to work with them since they are short, precise and easy to understand.

    2. Please write a short paragraph of fewer than 300 words on your definition of mental health from a youth’s perspective. How has it made you feel about the concept of mental health? Have you experienced mental health challenges in your past or do you know of someone who has or is ongoing mental health management challenges? Tell us their story (you may be anonymous or use fictional characters, we respect our privacy and of those around you). How was this managed, if at all?

    Mental health is emotional well being. The emotional side of human beings has always been neglected so I feel its essential and we need to give it the same attention as we give to physical well being.

    Chemutai Sage a Kenyan singer, song writer and instrumentalist underwent post partum depression after getting her first Child. She struggled with it for a while to an extent of developing suicidal thoughts. She tried committing suicide twice but they were all not successful because each time she tried doing it her sister will always show up and catch her in the act. Her supportive mum chose to stay with her so that she can help her with the household chores as well as taking care of the child. This made her see the other side of life where love abounds. She took an initiative of seeking medical intervention and counselling. She also came up with a very unique but weird strategy to keep her going. The strategy was, she set up a date to kill her self but before she died, she had a personal agreement with herself to enjoy life, do everything that makes her happy and fulfill all the things she wanted to do before she dies. This was Chemutai’s best moment of life because she gave it her all. When the due date arrived, she couldn’t imagine leaving the world which she had grown to love and enjoy living. She was a better person, she learnt to be positive no matter what the situation was, being kind to herself and appreciating life as it is. She also realized that hanging around people who cared about her well being also gave her the motivation and hope to keep going.

    3. In your opinion, is mental health management necessary in society? What are the signs and symptoms that someone is experiencing mental health challenges? Do you believe that these signs and symptoms are more common in their communities or are they seen as the typical signs and symptoms of mental health worldwide? Why?

    Mental Health Management is very significant because it contributes to the holistic development of a community. A community can not develop fully if the mental well being of its people isn’t catered for. People are very essential and they make the development happen, meaning they have to be healthy to contribute towards development.

    Signs and symptoms of mental health experiences
    Spending time alone most of the time
    Suicidal attempts
    Insomnia; lack of sleep while others sleep a lot
    Lose of concentration
    Hallucination; they might see things that don’t exist.
    Lose of interest in their passion, hobbies etc. for example if they loved doing community service activities all of a sudden, they are no longer interested and do not want to be involved.
    Quick change of behaviour; during that moment most people develop weird coping mechanisms for instance some go into excess drinking, drug and substance abuse etc.

    I believe these signs ad symptoms are the same world wide. Since people are different then the signs and symptoms might differ from one human being to the other. For example, others have insomnia while others tend to sleep so much when experiencing mental health challenges.

    4. The common statement is that mental health management especially among youth is a developed world problem and not an issue that affects developing countries. Is this true or false? Please provide an explanation and possible examples.

    According to an annual report done by World Heath Organization in 2017 ranks Kenya as 6th among African countries with highest rates of depression at 1.9million. Kenya is ranked as a developing country; this means that Mental Health is diverse and can affect anyone no matter the economic status of the country where they are in. What makes the difference is the awareness, response and management of the cases when they arise. For instance in Kenya Senator Sylvia conducted a research for the Mental Health amendment Bill in 2018 and discovered that the Ministry of Health finds it difficult to extract clear records of the number of people affected by the different forms of depression in Kenya because many people do not seek help and simply conceal their conditions. This means that most people in Kenya are not aware of the existing mental health issues and thus simply ignore their existence. Kenya unlike other developed countries is still creating on awareness on the same so people accept it as part of life and work towards reaching out for help. In kilifi County people view Mental health issues as bad omen brought about by witchcraft. This Amendment Bill of 2018 was mainly to reduce stigma on mental health related conditions in Kenya through;
    Increasing knowledge and awareness on mental health conditions and
    Advocating for improved comprehensive mental health structures.

    Developed countries for example U.S, China etc. mostly are past the ‘creating awareness stage’ because the society is well informed about the issue and are now investing on ensuring that they have enough and well equipped comprehensive mental health structures to handle the cases. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental illnesses are common in the united states. Nearly one in five U.S adults live with a mental illness (46 million in 2017) The statistics could differ probably because the community has accepted the issues openly and are willing to seek help.

    5. What do you think are the main reasons for Mental Health issues among youth in developing and least developed countries? Do you think the issues are less or more severe than in developing countries?
    The main reasons for mental health issues
    National Calamities and disasters for instance corona pandemic that has disrupted lives – this leads to situational depression due to lack of resilience
    Social media – the influence on social media has also contributed so much into mental health issues because people validate themselves on the social media interactions they receive. If one does a picture post then the more likes they get makes them feel beautiful. If the vice versa happens then they feel not worth it.
    Drug and substance abuse – instead of people facing their problems they choose to abuse drugs so that they can forget their problems. This does not help but rather adds more problems to the existing ones.
    Abusive cases – talk of gender-based violence or sexual gender-based violence, such cases are traumatic and contribute highly to the mental health issues.
    Lack of emotional independence/ investment – since most people focus on the physical well being then they lack to invest emotionally on themselves so when they face a crisis, they get emotionally overwhelmed.
    Peer pressure/ influence – this comes about when they want to look like others, get what they have accomplished without even working for it.
    Traditions/ cultures/ normalcy- for example people I Africa have a notion that ladies of age 25 when they complete their university studies they are supposed to get married so when they don’t get married then the society begins to pressure them. If one doesn’t handle the pressure effectively then they experience mental health issues
    Lack of diverse sources of income – this mostly happens to youths especially those that have cleared campus ad looking for employment. From the disappointments they receive from the job market then it sometime leads to mental health issues.

    6. Please refer to assignment 2: Social Media and Personal Banding. We posted a study by Dr. Primack and colleagues in 2014-2016 at the University of Pittsburgh, the study found that there is a significant, linear relationship between social media use and depression, measured either as total time or frequency of visits. Do you think social media has an impact on Youth Mental Health? How are your community leaders dealing with it?

    Social media has contributed so much to the increasing cases of mental health. The experiences differ from one person to another. It all depends on one’s personality and their response to social media posts.
    People with low esteem tend to rely on social media for approvals. For instance, when they share their photos for them to feel confident about their outer beauty, they equate it to likes, the more the likes the more they feel confident. If it happens the vice versa then the self esteem sinks. At times such disappointments lead to depression.
    Comparisons also happen in the world of social media. Most people post their successes, rarely would you find people sharing the journey that led to success. Some youth feel intimidated when they haven’t achieved some of the successes posted thus affects their mental health because they lack the optimistic character and hope to work and achieve the best.
    Some of our community leaders have taken the initiative to create awareness on mental health and even start initiatives that help respond to mental health cases. For example, some of the Young African Leaders Initiative Alumni have taken the responsibility to organize events on a monthly basis that are meant to help address mental health issues.
    In 2017 David Ndetei from the Africa Mental Health Foundation, Nairobi University conducted a research in Makueni County that established that most people related mental health issues to witchcraft and spiritual issues. From such perceptions we have seen leaders try and demystify such stereotypes through sensitizations on the same during public meetings.

    7. Is there decent access to mental care for youth in your country? Do you think youth seek the help of mental care officers first when they have mental health issues? Are the officers being active in helping the youth?
    As much as Kenya is a growing country, we have mental health care centres that are well equipped. For example, we have the Kenyatta National Hospital Mental Health Department, Referral Hospitals in all counties and many other private clinics.
    The officers are very active but the challenge they face is having to deal with Traditional Health Practioners and Faith healers. Since most Kenyans associate mental health as a witch craft and spiritual affair then they prefer the Traditional practioners and faith healers. This means that less people show up in those mental health care centres.
    Since mental health talks are becoming are new normal the we have seen people accept to seek for help in mental health care centres.

    8. Please write a paragraph of 400 words or less on whether your government is taking into account mental health management. Give suggestions on what changes you as a youth would advocate for. List a few steps you are willing to undertake as a youth to fight for change in terms of mental health.

    The government of Kenya developed a mental health policy (2017 -2030) that provides a frame work on interventions for securing mental health systems reforms in Kenya. This is in line with the constitution of Kenya 2010, vision 2030, the Kenya Heath Policy (2014-2030) and the global commitments. The constitution of Kenya 2010 article 43 (1) a provides that ‘every person has the right to the highest attainable standard health, which includes the right to health care services.’ This necessarily includes mental health.
    Such policies have helped counties set up facilities that are friendly and attend to mental health issues.
    Changes that I would like to advocate for is introducing mental health content in the educational curriculum content as part of life skills lesson.
    I have embarked on an initiative where together with Young African Leaders alumni we organize webinars that create awareness on mental health and we also share coping strategies and how to deal with the experiences.

    Kenya needs to Come up with favorable policies but focus on the implementation of the policies effectively. We should also normalize adverts on mental health just like the physical health adverts are new common.
    Just like the vulnerable people in the society: orphans, people with living disabilities, the old who receive a fund from the government to help them acquire some of their needs then mental health patients should also be placed in that category so that they can feel supported.

    9. Highlight a role model in your life who was battling with mental health and is a survivor. Explain in depth what makes this individual unique to you as a youth. Tell us their story on how they overcame mental health and the lessons you derived from their history.

    Farida Ally is a close friend and a founder of Elimu Care community based focused on advancing education as a global sustainable development goal. When she was in high school her dad who was in the tourism sector lost his job. Due to frustrations he started getting violent and each time Farida and her mum were the victims. The mum got tired of that life and decided to quit the marriage leaving Farida behind with the father. The dad continued to beat her mercilessly, so after she finished her high school, she chose to run away because the pain was too much to bear. This is the period where she started experiencing mental health challenges to an extent of having suicidal thoughts. After she left home, she went to her auntie’s after a short while she was chased by her aunty because she feared the dad. She moved in with friends who helped her get through, they were able to look for her a job and sourced for scholarships to ensure that she joined university.
    What makes Farida stand out is her willingness to become a better person. She took the decision to heal as a personal responsibility. She sought guidance and counselling services from a professional. In addition, she chose friends who were very supportive and gave her a conducive environment for her to heal. She is very passionate about community development, as she studies, she also works on part time basis on her projects. Being proactive has also helped her network and gain the self fulfilment feeling that comes when doing what we love.
    I have learnt that in life we can not chose what happens to us but we can choose how we respond towards it. Farida chose to succeed in life despite coming from a broken home. Blames keep the wounds open; Farida did not choose to blame anyone for her family calamities but she took healing as a personal responsibility. The people around you also determine whether you will have emotional stability or not. This means that we need to choose our circle of friends wisely. Have determined, focused and optimistic friends who can encourage you and support your initiatives. I also learnt that we should always accept to seek for help. We should not shy away from asking for help when one feels overwhelmed. When we reach out for help that’s a step ahead towards finding a solution.

    Assemble 4-6 of your peers between the ages 18-26 for a discussion session that you lead on the effect of social media on youth in your country. Although the lockdown order may have been relaxed in some countries, we do not want any of you to risk your health. Please do not organize face-to-face panel discussions. We highly recommend you to do online meetings on Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp or alternative channels convenient for you.

    Discuss the following and submit a short report of the outcome.

    Ask your panelists about their view on mental health. Have any of them personally experienced Mental Health Issues or know anyone who went through the same and recovered? What are the lessons from these stories?
    Metal health is the general well being of a person; mentally, physically and psychologically.
    An example is of a young girl molested by her dad after the mum passed away. Phanice a staff from Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) encountered this incidence while on duty conducting Mental health analysis study and she referred this case to a mental health hospital. Even after being attended to in the hospital she refused to go home. This is because of the fear of being tormented again.
    In order to be of impact we need to create time and visit such patients and also give them a listening ear. We should also go beyond career as much as kemri does the analysis then creating personal time for them to vent out their issues is essential.
    It is also important for us to offer wholistic help ad be empathetic. For instance, when dealing with a client and you find out that the reason, they are going through abuse is because they are not financial independent. Instead of feeling pity for them you can help them find a job with the available networks that you have. As they wait for the opportunities to materialize you can help them access basic needs it could be from donations or random give aways.

    Lead a discussion on the most common mental health issues among the youth in your country.
    Kenya has not really invested in research for mental health challenges so we don’t have elaborate statistics.

    From the many observation’s Suicidal issues, depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder, fear and anxiety about the future, beliefs which stops them from living their lives.
    Addiction to different things e.g. gambling, sex, drugs etc.
    Do your panelists think youth have equal and enough access to mental health care services? What are hindrances for a youth in your country from access to this service?

    Kenya has scarce resources for dealing with mental health because it is an issue that has not been well embraced. The hospitals are not so many and the same applies to qualified personnel. For example, in kilifi the most known psychiatric doctor is Dr. Mwang’ome who has been on that position for quite some years so we can not really identify the reason as to why other doctors do not apply to be on that position.
    The existing mental health facilities are not well equipped with essential infrastructures and do not have enough medicine. Patients have to purchase medicine from chemists which have them sold at very expensive rates which many people can not afford.
    The Government needs to have a mental health program for free just like the other physical health programs.

    Religion is a major hindrance towards seeking for mental health services. Kenya is a country built on the church and as usual we take everything to God in prayer. When one experiences such cases, some tend to seek spiritual help which at times does not solve anything. For instance, depression cases are more than feelings at times it is based on chemical imbalances meaning they need a doctor to attend them.

    Mental health services are so few, I can say we have a lot of online services however very few reaches out to share their issues online.
    Culture is also a hindrance; cultural values prevents some communities from seeking external counseling. Each time they have issues they seek the traditional healers
    Homes are not safe spaces and they are filled with people who are obsessed with the toxic masculinity where men have lower respect for women rights. Existing Stereotypes like men don’t cry also contribute a lot to mental health challenges because some men refuse to show off their feelings and thus feel overwhelmed.
    All said and done we need to change our family values, change the government and leadership as well teach more people learnt to be empathetic and make the conversation larger and keep it going.

    Do they feel as though they receive mental health services as frequently? Should youth find their own way to overcome mental health challenges or should they lean to external services? Give options on the type of services that can be offered.
    Its not a cultural norm to seek help for mental health issues so we don’t frequently receive such services. Other ways to dealing with that is by seeking for help in the social media platforms awareness forums.
    Mental health should have its own cabinet ministry and be Devolved in the counties. This will make it easier for counties to work depending on their statistics and common challenges.

    What are their suggestions to Kectil on raising awareness and educating the youth on the topic Mental Health? What do you think you as a Kectil Colleague can do to combat Mental Health in your communities?
    youths need to be in youth groups to act like each other keeper, then through this groups we can help each other with mental challenges.
    We can create awareness on social platforms. We can also be visiting people with mental health challenges in communities to help them with therapy.
    We can also take part in advocacy for proper mental health care services with enough trained personnel and policies that favor patients with mental health issues.
    If one isn’t in a position to handle such cases, we can always refer to better specialists who can be of help.
    As individuals we can also take up the responsibility of creating as much safe spaces as possible in the environments where we stay and teach as many people as possible to be empathetic in all situations.
    As youths we can also take part in curriculum reforms that favor the mental health topic and have it in cooperated in our learning syllabus as part of life skills.
    Community youths should participate in the national formulation of planning policies.

    Briefly introduce the actionable points derived from the Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 (World Health Organization). Do your panelists think the plan is feasible? What has been accomplished this far?
    They are very workable and achievable. In Kenya the president has acknowledge the existence of mental health issues this can be a great step towards creating a solution for the same.
    We have about 10 mental health care services in Kenya that are been equipped
    We have also seen community-based organizations and individual organizations taking up the responsibility to create awareness on mental health.
    We have seen non governmental organizations in partnerships with parastatals conducting research in various counties e.g. in makueni. In the coastal region KEMRI has conducted mental health analysis as well.

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