Whenever a hospital for the mentally ill is brought up in a conversation between people, especially teenagers, it is considered a topic to laugh about. Whenever someone does something a little bit foolish, we so easily call them mad or retarded. And this is the sad thing about not only teenagers and adults in Kenya but around the world. The stigma that has been created about the mentally challenged is very disturbing and alarming.
According to the world health organisation around 450 million people currently suffer from mental illnesses, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. Mental illnesses are many and can range from depression to schizophrenia to ADHD amongst many others. Treatments are available, but nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional. Stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders, says the World Health Organization (WHO). Where there is neglect, there is little or no understanding. Where there is no understanding, there is neglect.
Last week the Law and Psychology students of year 12 and 13, in my school, had the opportunity to visit Mathari Hospital which is a well known hospital for the mentally ill iN my city, and what we saw there was truly eye opening. This trip made us realise that Mental illnesses are real and it is nothing to laugh about, for when mental issues attack someone, it does not choose who. When someone is mentally challenged it doesn’t only affect them but also affect everyone around that person.
Today is World Mental Health day and this day is was brought about for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy. It is a day for everyone to join hands in union, to help the mentally challenged and encourages people to educate others and help get rid of the stigma that surrounds the mentally disabled or challenged.
It is commemoration of this day that the Law and psychology students in school decided to raise awareness and donate funds to Mathari Hospital through a bake sale. We also wore the green and white which are the main colours of this day a put up various posters all around the school.
I would also like everyone in general to know the importance of taking care of your mental health, don’t do anything that may disturb the normal functioning of your brain. Also if you know anyone around you that has some sort of mental disorder encourage them to get the help they need. Get rid of the stigma, stop encouraging people to laugh at those who may suffer in any way form a mental illness. And most importantly raise awareness about this issue in some way or the other.
If you did not raise awareness today then do it tomorrow, or the day after, or the near future; in fact do it on any day and everyday, because its better late than never. Mental illness is something that people all over the world should take seriously because it can affect anyone, no matter what age, what nationality and what gender. Be careful about what you say to someone, because a few simple words can traumatise someone and scar them for life, leading to severe depression.
Mental illnesses do not necessarily develop over time they can be something that a person is born with. This basically implies that a person did not choose to have a certain issue affecting them, by this I am talking about people suffering from issues such as schizophrenia, ADHD, Down syndrome; as well as many others.
We must make everyone fit into society and make them feel wanted. So get rid of the stigma! Get rid of the stereotyping and the sick jokes! And raise awareness about this issue!
Pictures of the various posters we as students put around the school.
I know I said in a tweet that my next blog post is going to be about my visit to the UN grounds in Nairobi, which are also the UNEP headquarters, but I am still waiting to get the pictures from the trip. Also I felt that this was something very important to share.