Psychiatry in Kenya
Psychiatry involves the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders. Mental disorders arise from several factors and at different stages in the life of a person. Some of these diseases may be cognitive and inherited from parents or develop from traumatic experiences, drug, and substance abuse. Mental disorders may be mental illnesses, personality disorders, and severe learning disabilities. Unlike mental health professionals and physicians, psychiatrists require the knowledge of biological and social sciences as they often analyze the circumstances of the patient and the body functioning of various organs to understand the perspective of the patient. This understanding is vital in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of the patient’s condition.
Psychiatry depends on research from other related medical disciplines such as neuroscience, psychology, biochemistry, biology, and pharmacology. Psychiatrists require establishing a stable doctor-patient relationship, as understanding the patient requires trust. Communication between the doctor and the patient is important in identifying the problem and helping the patient recover for example when they are suffering from personality disorders.
Psychiatry has some objectives including providing descriptions of behavior and explaining why they occur, prediction of future behavior and changing mental processes and behavior to the benefit of the patient.
Psychiatric hospitals in Kenya
Psychiatric hospitals in Kenya include
- The Outspan Hospital: Psychology Department. The hospital is located along Baden Powell road in Nyeri.
- Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital, Nairobi. The hospital is located along Nairobi-Thika road. Mathari hospital is a specialized institution that accommodates more than 500 mentally ill people. Apart from providing asylum to the mentally ill, Mathari acts as the central psychiatric research and training institution for other institutions such as the University of Nairobi and the Kenya Medical Training College.
- Kenyatta National Hospital: Mental Health Department. The hospital offers teaching and referral services and is the largest in Kenya.
- Aga Khan Hospital: Psychiatric Clinic, Kisumu.
- MP Shah Hospital: Mental Health Clinic
- Meridian Health Group: Karatina recovery Centre.
- All county general hospitals also have a mental health unit.
Services offered at psychiatric units in Kenya
Psychiatrist units provide a number of services during their interaction with people with mental illnesses. Such illnesses include psychosis, depression, schizophrenia, addiction and perceptual, cognitive and behavioral abnormalities. Others also offer counseling for family and marriage, drug and substance abuse, trauma and VCT/HIV, anger and stress management and psychological assessment.
Visiting a psychiatrist
A visit to the psychiatrist may be necessary once you notice the following
- Feelings of depression
- Feeling suicidal
- Dependence on alcohol, drug, and substances
- Psychotic episodes
When visiting a psychiatrist, you should describe your symptoms and the way you feel to enable them to determine your problem. Diagnosis depends heavily on the patient’s ability to describe their symptoms adequately. After the diagnosis, patients are put psychiatric medication or hospitalization.
The state of mental health in Kenya
Steeped in the belief of witchcraft and demon possession, mental illnesses in Kenya are considered to stem from powerful forces beyond the normal human’s reach. Mental illness for many is not a regular medical issue. Patients with mental illness suffer the short end of these backward beliefs as they are isolated, locked up in chains or left to roam the streets with no medical attention whatsoever. Parents of young children who have mental illness hide them away from the society as they are a ‘shame’ to them.
Efforts from the government and non-governmental bodies to create awareness about the importance of managing mental health has helped shape the attitudes of many. Nowadays, more people are embracing their mentally ill patients and seeking medical care for them. Other efforts to control mental illness include providing counseling on the importance of maintaining good mental health by avoiding drug abuse and leading a positive life to prevent depression.