Almost a quarter of us will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in our lifetime. But unfortunately, those struggling with their mental health will often face rejection from their families and communities due to stigma and a lack of understanding. This can make it extremely difficult for people to open up and access the help they need.
In Kenya, mental health issues can sometimes be seen as a spiritual problem rather than a medical one. For Festus, a young Kenyan, who started to struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts at university, this was devastating.
After Festus bravely reached out for help, his parents were unsupportive. They did not believe that he needed medical help and refused to pay for the medication he was prescribed by a doctor for depression.
Festus then had to face the added stress of the fall out with his parents, and the need to support himself financially. He was forced to find work to pay for his medication, while still trying to keep up with his studies.
Festus felt alone and hopeless; his mental and physical health was deteriorating, he didn’t have enough money to survive on, and he didn’t know where to turn for help.
It was at this time that he was connected with a local organisation, Cheshire Disability Services Kenya (CDSK), who are working with young people facing physical and mental difficulties.
They provided Festus with training in business skills, which enabled him to start his own business making and selling soap. After the business got underway, he was able to afford his medication and meet his other basic needs.
Festus then started attending monthly support groups with other young people with physical or mental health issues. He finally found a safe space where he could share his thoughts and challenges without fear of being judged.