By Eunice Malala
Sunday, October 13th was a normal sunny day for Helen. She had woken up to a call from her pastor asking her to lead morning glory at their church in Mlolongo. Having dedicated her life to worship and God’s service, Helen was more than glad with the task assigned to her. She left home early, living her 19 year old daughter Ruth sleeping.
The day had been a fulfilling one for Mama Ruth, and as she walked back home later that afternoon, her heart was singing praises, she was at peace with herself and proud of everything she was doing for the church and God.
Unknown for Hellen, Gloom and sorrow was waiting for her in her house. Hellen was surprised by the unmade house when she got home, her daughter Ruth had not moved a single thing since she left. Worried, Hellen had rushed to her daughters’ room to find out what the problem was. Ruth was not the lazy type and only one thing could explain the mess in the house; sickness.
Ruth’s door was still locked, and this worried Hellen even more. After few efforts of calling and asking her daughter Ruth to open the door without success, Hellen panicked and called for help from her next door neighbor.
Her worst nightmare unfolded before her eyes the moment the door was broken down. Her daughter Ruth lay sprawled lifeless in her bed, gone. She had swallowed a dozen of paracetamol tablets and left behind a note that explained her decision.
“My daughter was depressed for a very long time under my roof and I could not see it. She struggled with identity issues, body shaming and extreme low esteem yet I couldn’t realize. I had been too much occupied with serving others that I had time for my own daughter and I cannot forgive myself for that.” Said Hellen.
According to a 2017 World Health Organization (WHO) report, depression is a leading source of suicides in Kenya with many youths having depressive disorders that does not have an appropriate intervention yet. The same report ranks Kenya as number six with the highest number of depressed youths in African countries.
In the past one year, the Kenya media (TV/Radio news) has been flooded with cases of youths committing suicides, engaging in extremely immoral behaviors, sinking into drugs and harming others, which has been linked to depression.
“Many youths today are affected by anxiety and depression.” Said a mental activist Chitayi Murabula On an interview with Capital fm.
According to Vivian wamaka, a psychologist at St Patricks’ Hospital in Bungoma, Hellen’s daughter is among the growing number of youths wasting drowning in depression.
“Ruth had written in her diary how her friends mocked her because of her body. She was ashamed that she was big for her age and could not fit in a group of her friends who bragged about their curved bodies. It had totally killed her esteem and she was struggling to fit in.”
Said Ruth’s mother.
Social Media Pressure
A number of youths in Kenya are sinking into depression from the pressures around them, including technological advancement and lifestyle change. Growth of the internet, social media, addictive web games and the adoptive new life styles are some of the causes for many cases of depression. Unemployment, poverty and even stressful working environment are some of the factors putting depression among young people on a rise.
“Many young people nowadays keep comparing their lives with others on social media. There’s too much pressure of trying to be look cool, fancy and doing well in life. The truth is not everyone on social media is living the life they keep portraying on social media and this has derailed many youths.” Said Jackie a psychology student at Kenyatta University.
Adolescence and getting into adulthood can be thrilling with good opportunities but has also has a good share of risks and challenges. Without support and help, many people at this stage may not be able to successfully lead meaningful lives.
Parents are therefore advised to spend more time with their children to be able to understand them and help them wherever possible. This according to psychologists would help point out symptoms or any signs of depression in their young children.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Withdrawal, lack of interest in what one loves doing, sudden change in behavior, social isolation, change in eating or communicating habits, low self-esteem, frustration over small matters, insomnia, use of alcohol or drugs, unexplained body aches, less attention to one’s appearance, self-harm, and irritable moods.
With depression among Kenyan youths becoming a ticking bomb, it’s clear that the nation too is at risk of losing out on the benefits of a youthful population.
Studies has shown that early interventions for depressive disorders is a preventive strategy. We need more intensified Mental health awareness campaigns in the country in order to help in the prevention and reduction of depression cases among the youths.
As a parent, your support, guidance and love could help your young children to get their life on track. Talk to them to help them build positive habits and be able to manage stress and anxiety.
If not treated or attended to early enough, depression can be very damaging. Focus on listening, seeing and trying to foster positive lifestyles to make a world for our young generation.
Remember to seek professional help from a mental health professional when someone’s depression gets severe or is out of your control.