The Impact Of COVID 19 Pandemic On Mental Health.

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REV DR. PENNY NJOROGE

 Remember: There is No Health Without Mental Health!!!

A few facts.

Kenya’s current Mental Health Legislation is dated 1989 and demands urgent review to cope with increasing mental illness resulting from this pandemic. Because of not taking mental health seriously as necessary, there has been a serious trend of decreasing mental health budget rather than increasing it. We urgently need adequate funding not just nationally but on county level to care promptly and effectively for the mentally ill locally to intervene before they hurt themselves or others. This intervention will impact on suicide rates, domestic violence and minimize people turning to alcohol and drug addictions to soothe intermittent mental illnesses incidents that could otherwise be intercepted if good measures were in place.

There is lack of or minimal community education for families, communities and the nation to change negative attitudes towards mental illness. See it as a disease like diabetes, kidney failure or heart problems so as to remove the shame and stigma that cause the mentally sick to hide instead of getting necessary therapy, counseling or medication before going overboard.

We need more specialized professional training for more Psychiatrists, psychologists, community mental health care workers to provide prompt crisis intervention and resolution in the grassroots before situations escalate. The government needs to apply a Human Rights approach to mental health by providing affordable emergency resources through fair and regular budget and funding.

 As a nation, communities and families we must do everything to UNMASK AND DEMYSTIFY mental illness and treat the mentally sick with the necessary care, compassion and nurturing grace when we each realize we are all an incident away from mental illness. Today is me tomorrow it could be you, your child, spouse, sibling or parent. An alarming scary reality is that 1 in every 4 people has some form of mental illness. Especially with increased anxiety, depression, PTSD, Bipolar etc.

Mental illness is triggered by grief from death of a loved one, job loss or stress, major or terminal illness, any tragedy.

Because of the shame and stigma that cause people to hide away from treatment and rehabilitation, the government must urgently devise ways of integrating mental healthcare alongside the entire healthcare system. Very few people will go to Mathare and such other stand out institutions due to repercussions of employers or even friends knowing you spent even a day there. Fear of loss of jobs, rejection, being labeled etc. It’s imperative to include mental health survivors or care givers and young people whose input is critically needed in mental health task forces. With all due respect, I really doubt if that is true of the current task force.

The government and community needs to provide practical support for the mentally I’ll and their families. A mentally I’ll may often be a young parent with young children suffering behind them while a spouse suffers too. They may also have elderly parents who instead of being cared for are called to care for their ailing children and grandchildren. Practical support may be in basic necessities like food, shelter, medicines or financial. The government provides these to some extent for the physically disabled who might be able to do some things.

The truth is that the mentally sick are often more disabled and needing alot more close care than the physically ill. Protection needs to be provided as most end up emotionally, financially or even sexually abused because of their mental incapacity not by choice but by circumstances. Lack of empowerment for mental Health Care givers and frontline workers, inadequate evaluations and reporting on mental health challenges are big and seriousness to improvement of mental Healthcare.

During any national or global pandemic or tragedy, solutions to mental health need to be at the top of priorities as it affects indiscriminately from top to bottom, the young or old as well as rich or poor. We need to be extra sensitive, tolerant and understanding.

Less condemning, blaming or judgemental tendencies. Watch out for increased domestic violence and child abuse with everybody locked in. Watch out for increased day drinking at home. Help alleviate fear of hunger, fear of infection and death, fear of abandonment especially the shut in elderly people. Share food and other resources. Check on everyone. Eat and live responsibly.

Rest well.Pray for each other. Allow yourself to be invulnerable. VULNERABILITY IS NOT A WEAKNESS BUT A STRENGTH as we support each other. Control use/intake of social media. Write. Exercise,. Listen to each other. Talk less. Rearrange your life. Learn something new. Think. Who will you be when this season ends. SELCARE is critical.

As your DNA Chaplain I’m constantly praying for you and families.

Your Chaplain

Dr. Penny Njoroge.

DNA Official Chaplain and Diaspora Mental Health and Depression Awareness

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