By Caroline Katana
SambaSports Youth Agenda organization in Kwale County is implementing a project dubbed “Kumekucha Quest” to create awareness of mental health as a way of preventing suicide in society.
According to a WHO report it is estimated that 14.3 percent of deaths globally or approximately 8 million deaths each year are attributed to mental disorders.
Kenya stands at 4 deaths per day caused by suicidal behavior, a common mental health condition, according to the Ministry of Health Report in 2022.
Speaking during a mental health wellness bash at Kombani social hall grounds in Matuga constituency, Kumekucha Quest project officer Mwanaisha Kuwania said they are creating awareness through skits, poetry, psychologists, and testimonials from suicidal survivors and emotional thermometers.
“Mental health is real in our society and it’s a silent killer disease like any other disease, but unfortunately, in our African traditions, mental health is associated with witchcraft yet it’s a condition that requires awareness. That’s why as SambaSports we started this project to save the community. We are using poems, plays, and songs for the community to understand the message,” Said Kuwania.
Kuwania said they are school children and youth in the project.
“We are engaging six schools, both secondary and primary, in this program because our project has two categories. We have youths 18 to 24 years old and children between 10 to 17 years most of whom are in school. That is the reason we engage them in school and we believe through this they can become good ambassadors and pass information to their friends and society at large on matters of mental health,” She added.
She said they have managed to reach out to 300 youth during the two years they have run the project.
Dan Kinyanjui, an artist and survivor of mental health disorder, confirmed to suffer from depression silently after losing his wife in 2017 and his job in 2019.
“I was doing weird things like taking alcohol, avoiding people and coming to conflicts. I did not realize the problem. Although I was going through hardships it was very hard because, at some point in 2021, I was taken to Portreiz Hospital because I was totally depressed. Overcoming stigma was not difficult because earning people’s trust was not easy but I accepted and began a new life,” he noted.
The artist called upon the community to be brothers’ keepers and maintain love for each other and save those going through depression.
“We are African but we have lost the value of our culture. Before the community used to take care of every child, but today things have changed. Let us keep our differences aside and love one another, because the greatest commandment of all is to love your neighbor as you love yourself, speak to those who are depressed and give them hope of life,” said Kinyanjui.
Queenter Naliaka Wambulwa, a cyber-gender-based violence survivor and a founder of Girls for Girls African mental health foundation said they offer free psychosocial support to young girls in society.
“We understand therapy is very expensive, that is why we are very excited about this new partnership dubbed mobile mental health clinic and we want to implement it in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale. We want to partner with SambaSports Youth Agenda to help young girls, men and adolescents to access mental health in their setting, especially in schools and at home,” said Queenter
Counseling psychologist and a focal person for mental health in Kwale County Triza Ireri urged people suffering from mental disorders, especially depression, to open up to friends and relatives or seek counseling guidance at the mental health department.
“One can prevent depression by self-awareness and, if one feels disturbed psychologically, you can try to speak out to a friend for assistance instead of taking his or her life. That is not a solution. We also have mental health experts in our hospitals where people can be assisted and start a new life,” emphasized Ireri.
Matuga deputy county commissioner Lucy Ndemo said they are collaborating with mental health experts to end suicide cases in the area.
Affordable, effective and feasible strategies exist to promote, protect and restore mental health. The need for action on mental health is indisputable and urgent.
Mental health is determined by a complex interplay of individual, social and structural stresses and vulnerabilities.