It was a beehive of activity as University of Nairobi staff and students celebrated Mental Health Day on November 3, 2021 at the Manu Chandaria Auditorium, UoN Towers, Main Campus.
Speaking during the event, Mr. Johnson Kinyua, Ag. Dean of Students observed that mental health is a big challenge in our society and has led to marriages breaking down, financial stress in families as children are faced with school fees challenges and families are faced with the challenges of paying rent and other family bills.
“Money issues is thorn in the flesh. We are battling very a difficult situation as a country. You have seen schools burning, too much pressure for students to perform within a short duration of time as the school terms have been shortened. University of Nairobi is suffering as well. We are losing 2-3 students to mental health related deaths. Some students are committing suicide in the halls of residence”, he said.
The event, a brain child of Darren Hart, a Fourth Year Civil Engineering student, was meant to help staff and students deal with the challenges of; stress, depression, mental health. The event was a major boost to the health sector as Blood Donation Tent was full of Comrades who donated blood effortlessly.
Dr. Nyawira Kuria, Assistant Dean of Students, from the Faculty of Health Sciences and a Clinical Psychologist, urged students not to forget where they came from. Students need to appreciate their parents for the efforts made to ensure they achieve higher education. “Some parents sold a piece of land, others took a loan. Don’t disown them because of how they look. Always do your best. Don’t take anything personally, always keep your word because integrity is very important,” she said.
On issues relating to drug abuse, she warned students to be cautious when receiving gifts. “Be careful of the gifts you get. I went to Langata Prison and I met a girl who was gifted a phone. A stolen phone. Someone else was in jail because of fighting. My students avoid gifts, you can easily land in jail,” she said.
Dr. Andrew Kariuki Gitari, from University of Nairobi Health Services and a Psychiatrist, in charge of Student Health Matters, observed that there cannot be health without mental health. All paths lead to mental health. “A person with diabetes injects himself with medication, which leads to stress, which causes stress to family. Other things that causes stress are; poor food, anger, rape, gender based violence, unemployment, bad childhood experiences, transport chaos in the city, marital issues, peer pressure, stigma, beer, alcohol, both alcoholic drinks lead to addiction, which in turn leads to suffering and mental health”, he equipped.
He added that mental health is caused by social factors like a person struggling to fit in a society. “ A lady at 36 years without a child is mentally sick, socially she can't fit into the society. That alone will cause her stress. Nobody is immune to mental health issues, all of us can develop mental health problems,” he said.
Students were urged to seek help, work closely with Dean of Students.
Event Mcee, Ms. Orare Kemunto, a former UNSA Student Leader urged students to learn the art of conflict management. “Instead of cutting off friends, have better ways of managing conflicts to keep the relationships. She stressed the importance of friends created in Campus. “It is courtesy of friends that you will get Internships and Jobs”, she said.
Staff and Students were alerted on possible signs of mental health issues to look out for, some being; withdrawal from friends and family, feeling sad, withdrawing from your favourite activities. Mental Health is hidden behind smiles, religion, achievements; pornography, drinking
The concluding remarks: Comrades need to support fellow comrades: Take Action!
The event was sponsored by MSF International, WOSWA, Girl Guides Association among others.