Wanjiru notes the crucial role her husband plays as they walk together through her struggles with depression.
It has been tough.
“It is very easy to retaliate when she’s having an episode and we have come up with words to help me know when she is okay and when she is not so that I am not too pushy,” says Walter Akello.
“I remove all the feelings so that I can help her sort out whatever she is going through,” he adds.
Akello says he has seen her through close to 15 mild suicide attempts and about five major ones; sometimes without a trigger.
He has to hide medication and cleaning solvents as he attempts to make their home suicide proof.
Many are the time when he has woken up at night only to find her lying on the floor unconscious with empty medicine containers strewn all over or lying to next to an empty bottle of jik.
“The suicidal attempts are very difficult; it’s not easy seeing someone about to lose their life. I mean these are things we see in movies,” he explains.
“The first time was really shocking and sad and as a man you have to know what to do to prevent it because anything can trigger an episode,” he notes with concern.
Wanjiru has to be on suicide watch.
Akello says he has also learnt to look out for specific words that Janet uses when she’s thinking of ending her own life.
“She once took jik and by the time I found her she was breathing heavy and foaming in the mouth because it corrodes the throat,” he recounts.
“There are also specific words that people use when they are about to attempt suicide for example ‘you know I love you’, I’m not worth it, I’m a burden and other words that show hopelessness,” he explains.
Wanjiru and Kanyi are both familiar with the stigma that comes with mental illnesses.
“The stigma starts right from the chemist. Chemists look at you with very many questions on their mind. I am at a point where I don’t even buy my own medicine anymore because of these looks,” she says.
“At work they don’t think I can manage while some people in church think I have demons. It is actually the paradox of a depressed Christian,” says Wanjiru.
Kanyi echoes her sentiments.
“You become an outcast immediately people find out and no one wants to deal with you. Sometimes at work when I’d make suggestions no one would take them seriously and you know this only makes things worse for us,” he explains.
“People think you are going to a Looney bin or something,” he says.
Akello also notes how difficult it was to explain his wife’s condition to his family.
“At first my family wouldn’t understand what was wrong and they were a bit confused. There was a lot of misconception so they’d think she was lazy but they have come to understand,” he explains.