According to the World Health Organization, depression is a common illness around the world affecting approximately 280 million people in the world.
Depression may become a serious health condition when it is not treated early enough especially when recurrent and occurs with moderate or severe intensity as it can have a profound impact on work, relationships and personal life.
To help curb this predicament, the College of Health Sciences (COHES) at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, organized a mental health awareness campaign on Wednesday 13, October 2021 to sensitize staff and students on how they can manage as well as prevent any form of mental illness.
Speaking during the webinar, Senior Counselor, Mr. Joseph Mwangi Kamau of JKUAT, said an estimated 3.8% of the world populations are affected with depression, with 5.0% being adults and 5.7% among adults older than 60 years.
He further stated that mental disorders are often characterized by emotions and can often take different forms depending on age, gender, socialization, and cultural background, as well as personal differences unique to each individual.
“Depression is characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, tiredness, and poor concentration,” he said. “Depression is commonly accompanied, and occasionally preceded, by deterioration in emotional control, social behavior, or motivation, Mr. Kamau added.
On her part, Dr. Margaret Kagwe, a mental health doctor and an author noted that stigma and discrimination can result in a lack of access to health and social services. She observed that mental health has been recognized in the Kenyan Constitution and therefore, greater public education on mental disorders and the provision of more resources for treatment could lead to improvement in the lives of those living with mental disorders in Kenya.
“Kenyans living with mental disorders often experience stigma on several levels,” she said. “Stereotypes surrounding those with mental illnesses lead to public stigma, since many people associate mental illnesses with evil. Stigma is a factor preventing Kenyans from receiving efficient treatment,” she noted.
Dr. Kagwe said, depression can be controlled through building strong relationships with others, regular exercises, while making sure you have enough sleep, reducing stress and maintaining treatments and among many other factors.
Mr. Derrick Onyango, a JKUAT alumnus, urged the youth to engage themselves in matters concerning mental health as their participation is fundamental in enhancing service design and delivery. He said, this will benefit the young people as well as organizations involved in mental health matters and the community at large.
Depression can be caused by different factors which can range from biological to circumstantial. Some of the factors can be substance and alcohol abuse, medical condition, family history, brain structure as well as early traumatic experiences including childhood events. The one-day awareness campaign was attended by students drawn from the College of Health Sciences.