NAIROBI, Kenya, May 16 – While stress isn’t a mental health problem in itself, the disorder which is treatable is a growing public health concern and particularly alarming is the prevalence of depression and risk of suicide in this cohort.
In an interview with Capital FM News, psychiatrist and mental health advocate Chitayi Murabula notes that with so many sources of stress, it is difficult to find time to relax and disengage.
This is why stress is one of the biggest health problems facing people today.
Just last month, a second-year student at Chuka University committed suicide after he busted his lover with another man.
The incident left many baffled.
Concerns have risen over the increasing cases of university students committing suicide over relationships.
On February 6, a Murang’a University student committed suicide after a dispute with his lover.
These are just but a few study cases of how stress can lead to fatal outcomes if not well managed.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people between the ages of 15-29.
“It’s worth noting that 75 per cent of the 800,000 people who die annually as a result of suicide come from lower and middle income countries,” said Dr Murabula.
This begs the question, why the high numbers in developing countries?
The key barriers to effective care include lack of resources, lack of trained health-care providers, and social stigma associated with mental disorders.
There is need to improve mental health services. Currently there are only 88 psychiatrists, the ratio standing at 1:420,000.
“This compared to the developed countries that have 120 psychiatrists serving the same number of population, indicates that the journey to address mental disorders is far from being achieved,” explained Dr Murabula.
The causes that lead to stress are in two categories i.e. Organic and Psychological causes.
Organic causes include illnesses, medication for instance epilepsy, chronic conditions-heart conditions, diabetes, stroke etc.
While psychological causes include adversity in childhood such as physical/sexual abuse, war, losing a parent and adversity in adulthood-unemployment/loss of job, property, and imprisonment, marital and financial problems.
Taking practical steps to manage your stress can reduce or prevent effects of stress.
They include recognizing the signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
Recognize the signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
Seek professional help, get regular exercise, try a relaxing activity, set goals and priorities, decide what must get done and what can wait, and learn to say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload.
Last year the Ministry of Health unveiled the Kenya Mental Health Policy (2015-2030) which is in the implementation stage.
The policy contains strategies and priority actions focused on community approaches aimed at preventing depression.
The interventions will focus on several actions surrounding the strengthening of protective factors and the reduction of risk factors across the lifespan.
These include collaboration with relevant stakeholders in the strengthening of protective factors including school-based programs targeting cognitive, problem-solving and social skills of children and adolescents.
Also the implementation will have priority actions targeting interventions for; maternal mental health, older persons, persons emerging from conflicts and traumatic life situations at all levels of healthcare.