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Let’s treat psychiatric patients as emergencies

By - | September 30th 2012

Social attitudes towards domestic violence remain largely unchanged despite the many efforts in recent years to improve legal protections for vulnerable groups. Thus, even with laws galore to punish those who harm women and children, many potential victims are left to the vagaries of local authorities and police who may or may not act in time to help protect them.

To improve the lot of the vulnerable in the just society Kenyans are now creating, more has to be done to move the battle away from punishing abuse to preventing its occurrence.

This week saw the detention of former mason Jamin Mukobero, Kenya’s worst mass murderer, at the President’s pleasure for the 2002 killing of eight family members. The court remanding him to be held indefinitely concluded he was clinically insane and could not be convicted of the murders as an ordinary killer would. As fate would have it, the conviction comes in the same week that John Kirui, a farmer from Kuresoi with apparent mental health and drinking problems, killed his five sons after attempting to hack his wife to death.

In the one decade since Mukobero’s madness got the better of him, there has not been enough improvement in the diagnosis and treatment of dangerous psychiatric conditions, let alone mental illness in general. Social tolerance of erratic, eccentric, and violent behaviour also appears to be just as high. Far too often, people with problems that should have seen them institutionalised or treated are allowed to fumble their way through life until the day when they ‘snap’ and are dispatched by a lynch mob or their own hand.

Rather than let this state of affairs persist, and lose more innocent lives, efforts should be made to identify people whose psychiatric problems make them a danger to society and to themselves and help them avoid Mukobero’s fate.

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