Mental illness grows in Kisumu, Kakamega, Vihiga and Bungoma counties

Poor mental health among young people in Kisumu, Kakamega, Bungoma and Vihiga counties is on the rise and requires urgent intervention.

A new study shows that the number of adolescents seeking mental health services has doubled over the past two years.

The study, conducted by Access to Medicine and Tinada Youth Organisation with support from Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, found that at least six out of ten young people suffered mental illness.

Some mental illnesses have been linked to abnormal functioning of nerve cell circuits that connect particular brain regions, ultimately leading to depression.

The other causes of mental illness among the youth were drug abuse, teen pregnancy, trauma, distress and depression, and gender-based violence, especially in Bungoma, Vihiga and Kakamega counties.

Frequent stress

The research revealed that mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect people’s ability to function or think and behave well.

The study was conducted between August and December last year and the findings were released yesterday and shared by county authorities at a Kisumu hotel.

Dorothy Okemo, the lead researcher, said that the fear of being out of control and unable to tolerate uncertainty were some of the common characteristics of many anxiety disorders in the four counties.

“This is why it is understandable that many individuals with pre-existing anxiety are facing challenges at the moment,” said Ms Okemo.

Tinada Director Douglas Roy said that a lot of anxiety is rooted in worrying about the unknown and waiting for something to happen.

“Counties should come up with community health advocacy programmes that focus on behavioural change among adolescents and employing more psychiatrists,” said Mr Roy.

Roy spoke even as health professionals from the affected counties decried shortage of psychiatric facilities amid escalating cases of mental health in the face of rising cases of coronavirus infections.

A total of 50 health facilities across the four counties were sampled in the study. It involved 326 respondents.