Mental illness: Everybody is susceptible and the right information is key

As the Chiromo Lane Medical Centre (CLMC) conducted a mental health awareness campaign last month, one message was clear – ignore family and mental health at your own peril. 

The hospital is ready to help families resolve every single psychological health disorder that affects one in every four people worldwide as per statistics by World Health Organization. 

Adrian Adagi, a digital strategist for the medical centre, said when someone is going through poor  mental health, only the people closest to him or her are able to notice the quickest. Assuring that if people are going to be in charge while faulting a weird lot out there who would use words like “you are mad”, Mr Adagi gave an example of stigma, which is sometimes reversing the gains as those who are affected are afraid to come out and deal with the elephant in the room. 

“CLMC wanted to bring people together to get the conversation going,” he said. “If we empower the people within the family setting and give them the knowledge that they need, they will be able to notice that ‘my brother’ is not well, ‘my son’ is not well, ‘my daughter’ is not well, and they may now be able to get the support that they need. If people have the right knowledge, and a high level of self awareness, I believe that it will translate to low cases in future.”

Are you sleeping too much or too little? Are you eating too little or too much? With more awareness  more people will want to have assessment.

Essentially, mental illness is chronic (different from a terminal illness, which is progressive and its end result is death) and responds to treatment. That is why when a diagnosis is done and medication prescribed, it should be followed along with therapy for better results. Although it is important to bear in mind that there were no diagnosis done decades ago, it calls for courage to counter the runaway effects of mental health. Even though these are cases that can be prevented, what fuels crisis and makes things look like they are not working is stigma. 

“Everybody is susceptible to getting a mental illness,” said Ms Gathoni Mbugua, a clinical Psychologist. “We want to be in the forefront. This is to ensure that we are giving the right information. We also need to ensure that the tools that we use are relevant. Sometimes we need to get to that level to help them understand what symptoms mean, what the illness mean and that diagnosis of mental illness can only be done by a professional – a Psychiatrist. Don’t go to Google and then you get medication that changes your brain structure.”

For many years, behavioural changes that could not be understood led to a belief that mental illness is as a result of curse, thus the only way to get healed is to be taken to witchdoctors, or to the church for exorcism. Issues ailing today’s individuals, for example, include childhood unresloved issues, trauma,financial crisis, depression, anxiety and high work pressure. From a professional perspective, how can you encourage your colleague at work to take care of their mental health or to seek progressional help when they are struggling? 

“To normalise this, it is good to start the conversation in family set up because these are the people who notice when you have some behavioural changes. Are you sleeping too much, or are you sleeping too little? Are you eating too little or too much? With more awareness we believe it will translate to better mental health and less admissions in future,” she says.  

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