The Users and Survivors of Psychiatry in Kenya organization is appealing to Kenyan telecoms to install toll free call services to rescue individuals living with mental disorders, following increasing reports of suicide cases in the country and topped with limited intervention on mental health.
“Many people in the streets are suffering from schizophrenia, with no one to assist them,” explained Macharia Njoroge during an annual USP Kenya meeting held on 13 February 2015, Nairobi, noting that local media has reported high cases of suicide and mental health.
According to USP Kenya, mental illness is a risk factor for suicide with reports indicating that nine out of ten suicide cases have a mental illness. At a time when reported cases of mental health have been on the increase, the USP members shared concerns that despite reports, stigma is dominant amongst those affected of which could be avoided in conjunction with the help media.
Mental illness associated with suicide includes depression, alcoholism, schizophrenia and personality disorder. However, various cultures in the country still view mental illness as a curse or a taboo, leading to stigma and discrimination. Yet, the leading cause of suicide involves untreated depression of which can be triggered by stigma and environmental factors, notes USP Kenya.
“Don’t scold the sufferers, it’s not a celebration,” explained USP Kenya member, Pauline, “Bring out the condition as a problem.”
Based on USP Kenya reports, in just a period of three months, there were a total of 107 published news articles and features that reported on mental disability, mental health and suicide.
Noting the severity of mental health, other USP reports analysed in 2013, revealed that of the Star’s 59 articles, 41 per cent were news reports on suicide. The Daily Nation newspaper on the other hand, had 48 articles analyzed in which 15 (31 per cent) were reports on suicide while 33 per cent mentioned cases of mental health illness.
USP Kenya noted that despite media reporting on suicide cases, there has been failure to include advice, information and counseling contacts for readers especially on reports on suicide. To date, there have not been many call/help centers that assist people living with mental health challenges. For instance, reports indicate that there are at least 76 trained psychiatrists in the country.
Nevertheless, as a solution to reducing unattended cases of mental health and suicide cases, USP Kenya suggests that hotline numbers accessible to the public be installed by local mobile or telephone networks with Safaricom as an example. Thus, individuals would be able to have access to mental health services so as to reduce the suicide scourge.