"Across Kenya, there's a terrible secret, hidden from the world. They live in darkened rooms, if you call it livingthey're Locked Up and Forgotten." That is an excerpt from a 2011 CNN documentary showing the rot in Kenya's mental health system. There are an estimated 3 million, mostly poor, Kenyans living with a mental health problem, according to Non-Government organizations and United Nations figures. These range from common disorders like depression and anxiety, to disorders like psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, substance and alcohol abuse among others.
Ultimately the situation is worsened by the pervasive culture of denial, silence, negativity and stigmatization of the patient and the families they come from, in turn largely impeding their treatment. Not forgetting that there are too few specialists with mental health training and too many gaps existing in mental health provision. As an undergraduate at Africa Nazarene University, I was fortunate to work with amazing lectures who trained me in the art of engaging with different kind patients. I was also able to do my practicum at one of the well known hospitals in Kenya, Nairobi Women's hospital, which deals with issues of rape, domestic and gender violence among other issues. I interacted with a number of patients who because of past trauma were struggling with depression, anxiety/panic attacks and some even struggling with substance and alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, majority of those problems went undiagnosed and unmanaged and patients were left to silently suffer. It was here that my interest in clinical psychology and cognitive impairment gained incentive.
After graduation, I took a job at a rehab (Crossway Psychometrics and Psychiatric Institute) working with substance and alcohol abusers and mental health patients. Where the reality of the mistreatment of the mentally ill in Kenya hit me. Mental illness is seen as the handiwork of evil machinations (demons and evil spirit), and people suffering from depression and anxiety disorders expected to "snap out of it".