BY SIMIYU WAKAJUANESS
Apart from being news website, Wakajuanes.Com also has a WhatsApp group where fans chat the latest developments on topical issues affecting the society.
On every Tuesday evening from 8.30pm to 10.pm, the admin of the group normally invites specialists in the health sector to talk about various medical disorders after which this writer compiles and shares on the blog. For the last two months alone, Kenya has been hit with terrible news headlines of people terminating their own precious lives and those of their loved ones.
As a result, our previous discussion was about ‘mental health’. To help us understand the topic, the group invited three specialists to share with the members.
Dr. Leonida Makila, a Lecturer – Educational Phycology at Kibabii University and also the Director of Bungoma Counselling Centre.
Dr. Wolfram Simati, MA Counselling and psychologist registered with the Kenya Counselling and Psychological Association and Dr Arthur Ageya, a medical practitioner based in Bungoma.
Here is a recap of the discussion.
Admin: Thank you doctors for accepting to share with us on this topic. So what is mental health?
Dr Ageya: Mental illness are a spectrum of diseases that are not limited to the ‘madness’ that we are quick to identify. There are several others like depression that are now on the rise.
Member: Do we have different kinds of these diseases?
Dr Ageya: Yes, Schizophrenia (a behaviour that affects one’s ability to think, feel and behave clearly) and bipolar (a disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows and manic highs) are probably the most common that we encounter because they are psychotic and thus tend to be accompanied by bizarre behavior hence the tendency to refer to them as’ mad’.
Member: And what is depression?
Dr. Ageya: Depression is a low sad state marked by significant levels of sadness lack of energy low self-esteem guilt or related symptoms.
Member: What are the symptoms of depression?
Dr. Makila: Symptoms of depression differ from person to person: indecisiveness (diminished ability to think and concentrate), feelings of despair, miserable, little pleasure for anything, anxiety anger and agitation. The sea of misery may lead to crying spells, no desire to work, talk with friends, eat, have sex etc. which is known as paralysis of will.
Dr. Ageya: To add on that, there’s also significant weight loss, insomnia/too much sleep, fatigue, excessive guilty, recurrent thoughts of death and contemplating of suicide.
Member: What are the causes of depression?
Dr. Ageya: Causes are social, biological and psychological.
Dr. Simati: Depression also follows lineage; a family can be prone to depression.
Dr. Makila: Ones personality can also contribute to depression. Depression can come and go depending on how people handle themselves. Again, it can be very devastating especially when they don’t know that they are undergoing depression. That’s why we need mental health education.
Member: Some people who are depressed don’t even realize they are depressed because we have little or no knowledge on depression.
Member: True, people disguise a lot when they are depressed because the society is so harsh. We hardly understand that a person can be depressed.
Admin: A very informative topic there. Do we have stages of depression?
Dr. Ageya: Yes. There are stages. Depression can be either moderate/mild or severe.
Dr Simati: Severe depression is dangerous because it’s where one can actually commit suicide or cause harm to the family or neighbours (homicide).
Member: Learning a lot here. So with all those symptoms above, what should one do immediately you notice that one is depressed and they can’t talk to you?
Dr. Makila: Initiate friendship with them. Show that you are interested in what they do. Listen to them and also report to any psychologist around if you think you cannot handle them. Friends are an important support system. The wider the network the better. Women are more prone to depression than men but they survive the condition because they are very responsive and their power of friendship and sharing their predicaments sails sustains them through.
Member: Are these mental diseases treatable?
Dr. Ageya: These diseases are very treatable and people have been known to live a normal life after initiation of therapy. We as a developing world (Africa) are still failing to accept that psychiatry is also medicine and prefer to send those we perceive as mad to witch doctors and preachers.
Depression is also treatable with pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions available.
Admin: Very interesting. Now do we have any testimonials on how any of you handled a victim of depression?
Dr Makila: Yes. A university girl who wanted to commit suicide for of fear of rejection by her dad after getting pregnant. I involved the parents It was quite challenging since I was dealing with a Maasai elder who was quite obstinate. We succeeded.
Admin: Congratulations! Thanks a lot to our guests for sharing with us this important depth. We look forward to hosting you again.
Dr Simati: We are humbled but let’s remember to be our brothers’ keeper.
(NOTE: The conversation has been edited for clarity and space).