At the University of Nairobi’s Mental Health Awareness day celebrations held on Wednesday November 3, 2021, pertinent issues on mental health were discussed.
The day was marked in a bid to provide much needed insight given the upsurge in cases of illnesses such as depression, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. It was important to debunk the stigma surrounding mental health issues in Kenya and provide information that would be integral in identifying early warning signs of mental health.
The event which was held at University of Nairobi’s Manu Chandaria Auditorium is thanks to collaboration between the Dean of Students Office, the University Health Services (UHS), Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF) and the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS).
In his opening address, the Dean of Students, UoN, Mr. Johnson Kinyua noted that the university was not exempt from cases to do with mental health.
“The University has not been an exception when it comes to mental health. This discussion is timely, relevant and we must mitigate by all means by having a conversation on mental health just like what we are having today.”
While the Assistant Dean of Students, Faculty of Business and Management Sciences, Sr. Caroline Rukinga explained the mechanisms adopted by the university to deal with mental health.
“At the Dean of Students Department and within the entire University of Nairobi we are always concerned when it comes to mental health. The University has employed at the Dean of Students Department 14 counselors.”
Sr. Rukinga further explained that the counselors were at the disposal of all University of Nairobi staff and students.
Medecin Sans Frontières’ representative Faith Nashipai expressed sentiments with regards to the importance of good mental health.
“The reason why mental health is important is because the world has not been looking at mental health as a health issue; over the years we have looked at every other issue in health except mental health yet the wellness of your mind is critical to how you deliver everything.”
“Proper mental health is not just the absence of disease, it is biological, are you biologically correct? So that you don’t have any physical illness, your genetic makeup doesn’t predispose you to developing mental or physical illness,” Emphasized Dr. Anthony Gitari, UHS.
Dr. Gitari explained that psychological wellness entails being okay emotionally where one isn’t too sad that they resort to suicide or too happy that they develop feelings of grandiosity.
Coalition Action for Mental Health’s Mark Mutisa, noted that some childhood experiences have contributed to some of the problems we face as adults.
“The adverse childhood experiences that many of us went through reduce our mental capacity as we grow up. It limits our ability to create good relationships, contributes to low self-esteem creates an affinity towards crime.”
On his part, a student activist known as Daren Hart encouraged his peers to donate blood as frequently as they can in order to save precious lives.
“A wise man once said that what you do for yourself will die with you but what you do for someone else will never die. Every two seconds somebody needs blood; more than 38,000 blood donations are required every day. You can donate blood six times in a year and this can translate into saving 18 lives.
The University of Nairobi Mental Health Awareness Day also included blood donation drives, free medical checkups, HIV testing, Covid-19 testing, counseling and medical talks.