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Cases of mental illness on the rise

13 October 2014, 12:27 Dareel Eric

Vihiga - Cases of mental illness have been on a steady rise in Vihiga County majorly due to stress brought about by high costs of living, with men being more affected than women, doctors have said.

Rampant lack of employment has further led many youths to venture into drug abuse to ease stress, which becomes the third largest contributor of mental illness cases after cerebral malaria and HIV/AIDs.

The doctors further said that among the highly abused drugs in the region include chang’aa and bhang, which are often readily available. 

During the World Mental Health Day that was held at the Mbale Rural Health and Training Centre, it was noted that the cases are rampant especially among the men who contribute more than 60 percent of the cases of those that seek medical attention. 

“Other than stress, cerebral malaria and HIV/AIDs have been a major cause of mental illness as it affects the mental state of individuals. So far, we are admitting over 120 patients per month with cases of mental illnesses at our clinic," said Dr Francis Nyota, Vihiga County mental health coordinator.

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He said that most of those who seek medical help say that life has become unsustainable, making them to venture into drugs as an alternative.  

Nyota noted that a lack of proper mental unit in the region was forcing them to discharge their patients prematurely leading to improper post-treatment care.

“After treatment, mental illness patients need rehabilitation and we find it difficult to contain them here for longer periods as we only have a clinic. When they are released earlier, it becomes difficult to keep a closer look at the way they are taking drugs and whether they are improving,” he said.

He noted that relatives of those affected shy away from taking care of them and sometimes disown them, making treatment even more difficult as the hospital has to constantly waiver them.

“Most of those treated often do not have relatives who want to own them up. It thus forces the hospital to treat them for free and some of the drugs used are very expensive,” he said.  

Nyota asked the County government to consider building a well equipped mental unit so as to help reduce the rising cases.

At the same time, Andrew Ngida, a nursing officer at the Vihiga Hospital noted that the hospital wants to initiate a programme to empower all health workers in the region to deal with mental health cases.

He said that most health workers fear tackling persons suffering from mental illness due to the stigma attached to the disease.

“Most of the patients are usually sent away when they visit health centres and thus they can only be treated at the Vihiga Hospital which makes most of them who come from far away regions not to reach the facility,” said Ngida.

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