MENTAL HEALTH: PART ONE SCHIZOPHRENIA
I have tried to write this post for weeks, it wasn’t writers block, it was just how to phrase it. This year alone I have heard over three cases of suicides, they all start with “oh! My friend killed himself or herself”. Each and every time I have heard about this, I remembered a friend of mine who took her life last year, we weren’t so close, though we talked once in a while about how we were doing. You know those conversations that always end with I’m good and you fail to navigate through it, because time has passed and you guys grew apart because the reality happens and friends drift apart.
I got the news of her suicide from our mutual friends, I was shocked because this was a perfectly strong person in my eyes, a she-wolf, full of life and happiness, how could she have done this to herself. On asking more about what led to her death, they said “Ni uchawi, alikua na masauti kwa kichwa”. Schizophrenia they meant, but oh well she came from ‘one of those’ communities. My friend had suffered from this condition for over two years, being from a normal middle-class family mental health was extremely expensive and Mathare was a no-go zone, because who wants anyone to know that there perfectly brilliant law student was going crazy.
Attempted suicide was a common occurrence, she had tried several times, who knew between the heys and how are you doing from me that she was in a bad place. I wish I knew, but what would I have done, I had no idea what schizophrenia was at the time, not until I heard about her death and I got eager to scavenge the internet to learn about mental health.
Her death hit me hard, I can only imagine what her relatives felt, what hurt the most was hearing that she wouldn’t go to heaven. “I mean it’s a known fact in the bible,” a friend of mine argued with me at the funeral, it was painful, it still hurts, I still pray for her, I don’t care if my prayers are not legitimate or taboo but I still do, it’s the least I can do.
When I watch the movies and the families with the ‘physchos’ hide their children from the society and are taken to mental institutions, where mostly they come back and are the villains in the movies. I wonder if they’ll ever be any progress in Kenya, but I am hopeful, if my friend’s parents had afforded it, then maybe she’d still be here or maybe not. But I am hopeful, that as people learn more about mental health, that there will be less stigmatization and more support to the people suffering, because the truth of the matter is that it could be genetic, or environmentally related or caused due to a traumatic situation. So, please let’s be mindful and supportive, let’s talk to our friends, really talk not only the heys, and how are you doing and that’s the end of it, but let’s be nosy.
So, what is schizophrenia?
It’s a mental health disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel and behave clearly. People with schizophrenia may seem like that they have lost touch with reality.
These are false beliefs that are not based on reality. Eg you think that you’re being harmed or a major catastrophe is about to occur.
These involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. Can be in any of the five senses but hearing voices is the most common hallucination.
3. Disorganized thinking(speech)
Effective communication can be impaired and answers to questions may be partially or completely unrelated. Putting together meaningless words that can’t be understood.
5. Extremely disorganized behavior, not focused on a goal,so it’s hard to do tasks.
6. Negative symptoms
This refers to lack of ability to function normally eg doesn’t make eye contact,doesn’t change facial expressions or speaks in monotone.
The person may lose interest in everyday activity, socially withdrawn or lack the ability to experience pleasures.
Not well known but it’s believed that a combination of genetics, brain chemistry and environment contribute to development of the disorder.
1.Having a family history of mental illness
2. Taking mind altering drugs during teen years and young adulthood (while brain is still developing)
3. Some pregnancy and birth complications can cause the development of the disorder.
1. Physical examination
2. Tests and screening
3. Psychiatric evaluation
4. Diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia ( DSM 4 or 5)
Treatment include medication and psychosocial therapy to manage the condition.
Thank you to physchologist Faith Mathenge for helping me write the second part of the story to get in touch: 0702823395
For more mental health information check out Mind my Mind.
Please feel free to share your story with us or leave a comment down below. Thank you for reading. Have a lovely day.