It was shocking to hear from a Ministry of Health consultant psychiatrist and clinical psychologist Dr Njeri Muigai, that one-out-of-four people in the country may be suffering from mental illness. Research projects that by 2030, depression alone is likely to be cause of death, second to HIV!
I could not help but wonder how many of us may be depressed and yet unaware of it. Last Wednesday, two staffers of a television station in the United States were shot dead during a live broadcast by a disgruntled ex-colleague.
In Kenya, on the same day, a hard-working 48-year-old man was shot dead by two assailants even after surrendering Sh300, 000 without argument. I was astounded by the connection over some unexplainable things “bad” people do to the innocent, talking to my retired dad this week about his take on such matters.
My father with a background in mental health and who at one point treated incarcerated men, responded without hesitation, “People are depressed!”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) terms depression as a common disorder characterised by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth (insignificance), disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration. As such, if one-out-of-four suffer mental disturbance, there is cause to panic, with data citing depression rates as higher among men than women.
The pain, extreme anger and emptiness for loss individuals face is real when incidents such as these occur, though hardly anyone stops to analyse why these things happen. I once heard someone say, “Depressed people depress others.” One could be forgiven to say, “It’s almost as though individuals who commit crime get a kick out of it.”
Do they really? The reverse may perhaps ring true. Think about the first incident of the 41-year-old gunman, who fatally shot himself a few hours after killing the two media staff.
The man committed suicide which is cited by the WHO to be the result of severe depression. Little wonder that even in the Good Book, Judas Iscariot, after betraying Jesus, instantly went out and hung himself. There is no historical evidence of whether or not he suffered from mental distress.
Further, WHO reports indicate that 350 million people of all ages suffer depression which means the world must pay greater attention to this disorder. All is not lost as treatment is available once proper diagnosis is done; with need to understand importance or eradicating stigma surrounding this mental status.
Dr Muigai says stigma associated with most psychiatric illnesses in the developing world makes patients reluctant to seek treatment. Interventions may not be automatic, though my attention was instantly drawn to one of the slain journalist’s father, in dealing with the pain of losing his 24-year-old daughter.
His words, “I plan to devote all my strength and resources to seeing that some good comes from this evil.” Human beings may not always be able to put a finger on why evil is meted out.
However, neither can we underestimate the power of well-doing when horrible situations unexpectedly hit us and when every instinct in us cries out, “Revenge!” The writer is a features writer for Daily People