NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 31 – Excessive consumption of alcohol has been cited as one of the leading causes of mental disorder in the country.
A leading psychologist and chairman of the National Agency for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) Authority Dr Frank Njenga has warned that mental illness is becoming more prevalent in Kenya due to increased alcohol and substance abuse.
Dr Njenga said on Friday that many Kenyans especially in the rural areas are suffering silently with mental disorders due to the high consumption of illicit brew in the villages.
He however said that the Government and agencies like NACADA have embarked on an awareness campaign to help stem the tide.
Dr Njenga was speaking at the General Kago stadium in Murang’a during celebrations to mark World Mental Health Day.
He was accompanied by NACADA Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Kimani at the event, which was presided over by Medical Services Minister Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o.
She said that because of the strong link between mental illness and drug abuse, measures to curb alcohol and drug abuse should be implemented as frontline preventive interventions for mental health disorders in this country.
“This will entail incorporating prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and psychosocial support for alcohol and drug dependence into Preventive-Promotive healthcare programs,” she said.
Dr Njenga warned that cases of mental illness were on the rise due to a number of risk factors.
“People who are unable to cope with the stresses of life in Kenya today resort to alcohol and drug abuse and other coping mechanisms that expose them to mental disorders,” he illustrated.
He said those who seek solace in alcohol and drugs do not know that it is a major cause of brain damage.
“Excessive consumption of alcohol poses the greatest risk. When one frequently drinks excessive alcohol, the operations of his/her brain are altered thereby leading to addiction. As such, addiction is a brain disease that if not adequately treated it may eventually develop into serious mental illness,” he said.
The psychologist stated that the relationship between mental problems and substance abuse, especially among young people, has long been established adding that it is a known medical fact that alcohol and drug abuse affects the development of the young brain.
“The surest avenue to safeguard society from the ravages of drug abuse and related mental problems is through the family. Parental influence is a critical factor contributing to reduced risk for substance abuse.”