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10 percent of Kenyans suffer from depression; about five to 10 percent of these are teenagers while 10 percent are adults/MUTHONI NJUKI


In the blues: Grappling with depression

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While most people chase their dreams, Kanyi has had to shelve his and they remain a façade.

“It is almost like a death sentence and that is a big factor into what leads people into depression. The illness itself is like a yoke of oppression and its reality is with you at all times. Sometimes you feel so worthless and hopeless and other times you feel like you are on top of the world,” he explains.

“I feel like I will grow old alone; this condition holds you back and my life doesn’t feel like it’s going to get any better,” he says.
Kanyi says he had always been introverted and when his elder brother committed suicide at the tender age of 17 in 1992, he sunk deeper into his cocoon- afraid to conquer the world.

He remembers that dark period when he stumbled upon his brother’s lifeless body lying on the bed foaming.

Kanyi was only 11 years old.

“I found him lying on the bed; next to him were empty medicine jars. We rushed him to hospital but he was pronounced dead on arrival,” he says with a tinge of sadness.

“It was very hard to get over it and his suicide was disastrous for the entire family,” he says.

Kanyi’s parents however didn’t inform him of his brothers’ death- in an attempt to shield him from the shock. But this caused resentment from Kanyi’s end.

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“My family didn’t tell me he had died so you can imagine all my neighbours’ kids telling me sorry and I did not know why because I knew he was in hospital recovering. But we had a session with my family to resolve this issue,” explains the last born in a family of seven.

Depression is a mental illness that cuts across all socio-economic, race, tribe and age barriers.

Kenyatta National Hospital Voluntary, Counselling and Testing Center manager David Bukusi explains that depression often exhibits itself in two major ways- unipolar and bipolar.

While an equal number of men and women suffer from bipolar, majority of women suffer from unipolar depression.

“These are both serious clinical depressions. With bipolar an individual exhibits two extremes; sometimes they are too dull which is what we call the depressed state or are too excited which we refer to as manic,” he explains.

“In unipolar an individual is just in the depressed state,” he adds.

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