Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicted a global mental health crisis triggered by the coronavirus. This prompted the Ministry of Health experts to urge Kenyans to take reasonable steps to avoid getting caught up in the crisis.
The uncertainty brought on Kenyans by the coronavirus pandemic, unable to fully participate in social life, burdened by the loss of jobs and afraid of the future- is expected to exacerbate the already poor mental health state of the nation.
29-year-old Christine Adhiambo who has been battling depression, told Standard Digital that the uncertainties around her have led to a relapse.
“I have been having relapses and mental breakdowns. I am anxious and nervous. Coping is hard, especially if you don’t have a strong support system. But at the same time I am grateful because I still have a job,” she said.
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However, it’s not the same for Aisha Akinyi, a 27-year-old businesswoman in Nairobi. “I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I am living a day at a time. When the year began I had so many plans, I wanted to expand my business but now I am stuck. Since the cessation of movement and closure of borders, my source of income was halted. I am so worried.”
WHO warned that the world should expect to see an upsurge in the severity of mental illness, including amongst children, young people, and healthcare workers.
“The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil could cause psychological distress,” said WHO’s Mental Health Director Devora Kestel.
On April, 22 Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe announced a toll-free line that would help people battling depression during this pandemic. Other organizations including Absa and Minnet have also chipped in. "We have established a psychiatric and psychological care help framework over this period. If you feel distressed and needing counseling or psychological care, please call 1199 and you will be attended to.”
Dr. Chitayi Murabula a Psychiatrist and mental health advocate at the Ministry of Health advises the general public to avoid exposure to excessive information and news about Covid-19. “To maintain good mental health, you need to have routine especially now that majority are working from home. Arrange your house in such a way that you have a place to work, to rest, and where you have sufficient sleep. Also, slot in some hobbies,” he advised.
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Dr. Murabula also explains the importance of good sleep hygiene. “Sleep is important for mental health. Go to bed and wake at a constant time every day, do not sleep during the day as daytime naps interfere with the routine.”
Mental health experts around the world are insisting on getting information from reliable sources since there’s an avalanche of fake news especially on social media that cause anxiety and panic attacks.