6 November 2017

Kenya: Mental Health - Are You the 1 in the 4?

Photo: Daily Monitor
(file photo).

According to WHO statistics, 1 in 4 persons suffers from a mental disorder. Among Kenyan women, depression and anxiety are the highest ranked mental health issues. Mental Disorders are considered the continent's silent epidemic because most times they are remain undiagnosed and unmanaged


Anxiety disorders are amongst the most common and sometimes misdiagnosed mental health conditions in Kenya. Most times anxiety is confused for other illness because of its accompanying physical symptoms. These include dizziness, sweating, accelerated heartbeat, aches and pains. Numerous tests may be conducted with sometimes no physical problem detected.

Life threatening situations such as muggings, miscarriages or a carjacking can trigger anxiety. Relaxation exercises, learning to challenge your thoughts are some recommended ways to manage anxiety.

2. Depression

Depression is yet another common mental health problem faces by women of all ages in Kenya. Studies have shown that depression can present in children, teenagers as well as adults.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

Fatigue and decreased energy

Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness

Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

Irritability, restlessness

Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex

Overeating or appetite loss

Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings

Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Treatment for depression involves restoring the body back to a normal using a combination of medication behavioural and thought management strategies. Problem solving skills can also help the sufferer gain perspective of the existing problems.

3. Substance Abuse Problems

Substance abuse can start from occasional use and gradually escalate to dependence. One is said to be dependent when they rely on the drug of choice to function normally.Substance abuse can be alcohol, cannabis, cigarettes heroin, cocaine or prescription medications.

Sometimes the above are used to 'medicate' other problems such as depression or anxiety. Drugs have major consequences on the health of women and pose even greater risks on a developing foetus.Stigma about women drinking can also make it more difficult to seek help.

Many treatment strategies exist for women in Kenya including addiction counselling, rehabilitation and support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous.

4. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Also known as attention deficit disorder ADHD is yet another condition that is faced by women in Kenya. Not frequently recognized or diagnosed in adulthood, many struggle how to seek help. Features of ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

ADHD can present a challenge in motherhood as it needs you to be more organized, more in control of your energies. Severe and undamaged ADHD can lead to consequences such as early and unplanned pregnancy, risk of sexually transmitted diseases, relationships difficulties and even early divorce all of which can adversely affect one's life.

Unmanaged ADHD also poses numerous challenges at work and can be complicated by anxiety, depression and substance abuse problems.

One of the most important strategies in beginning to manage ADHD is knowledge. The more you know the better you are placed to manage its symptoms. There are also a number of behavioural strategies such as on organization, managing procrastination which helps in bringing out the positives of ADHD.

5.Chronic Stress

With the numerous challenges women face in this millennia, work and family and personal relationships can be contributors of great levels of stress.

Stress after stress can make it harder to cope with daily life challenges and put you at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease for those already at risk.

Learning stress management skills taking breaks are among the strategies that can help with chronic stress.

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