SURGE OF MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC- By Mercy Kamau.

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It is said that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. The Constitution of Kenya 2010, in Article 43 provides that every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to healthcare services. According to the Mental Health Policy 2015-2030, mental health services are widely underfunded especially in developing countries. Kenya is among the 28 percent of WHO member state countries that do not have a separate budget for mental health.

Depression, which is a mental health condition, has been one of the major causes of death globally. According to the World Health Organization’s report of 2014, Kenya was ranked at the fourth position in Africa with 1.9 million people having the mentioned condition. Mental health awareness has been rising especially after the emergence of Covid 19.

When the Ministry of Health announced the first coronavirus case, rampant changes took place in the country and globally. Adjusting to such changes would be tough for the common mwananchi who is used to waking up, getting himself together to face the challenges of hustling and tarmacking so that he can get something on the table at the end of the day. The borders closing, county lockdowns, and curfews being enforced led to an immediate change in how people would continue to live. It was traumatizing!

Loss of jobs has led to mental health issues: Imagine having to wake up in the morning, only to stay locked in your house doing nothing and expecting no income to flow, yet there are bills to be paid and dependents looking up to you for support. Most people, especially those from the cities suffered a lot. With some having to find means to go back to the village to find solace.

Taking a loan is very easy; in fact, the process is easy like singing ABC. During the pandemic, a lot of Kenyans took loans from banks and other lending platforms. According to a report by a local newspaper printed on January 29, 2021, borrowers defaulted Ksh 73 billion during the pandemic.

Marriages faced a lot of difficulty during the pandemic. Young couples get into marriage with wild anticipation not knowing what awaits. Most of the young people have not mastered the skills and what it takes to maneuver and thrive in a marriage. When the marriage fails, this becomes a turn-off for young people especially men who feel drained and taken for granted. Since men are viewed as the ‘lions of the jungle’, they fail to share their battles with other people because they feel that they will be judged as weak. So, they opt to keep everything to themselves and slowly the wounds get swollen, painful, and unbearable, that is when the young men get into substance abuse and later on into mental health conditions like depression, and to some extent, some end up committing suicide!

Dealing with socio-economic changes can lead to mental health problems. The condition is treatable when the right channels are involved at the right time. Creating awareness can be of great significance in ensuring that we curb mental health illnesses because stigma has been prevalent in our society hence advocating for the engagement of the right personnel for treatment and counseling can be of great significance.

The Government of Kenya in partnership with the World Health Organization can as well come up with amicable solutions that will help solve these cases. This can be done by ensuring that there is a separate allocation for mental healthcare services.

Article By Mercy Wairimu a Linguistics, Media Studies and Communication and a passionate Writer

Twitter @Mwairimu7
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