Henry Omondi, 30, fell into depression after performing well in his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and failing to get a job or someone to sponsor his education. He comes from a humble background and his parents relied on him to help them feed the rest of his family. All these took a toll on him and he started harboring suicidal thoughts. He also became a recluse preferring instead to be alone.
His relief came after meeting Reverend Fabiola Ochieng’, a pastor with Redeemed Gospel Church, who helped him out of the disorder. “I met the man of God through a friend and we became friends. I slowly started opening up to him on what I was going through and he guided me on how to go about the different issues and eventually I came out of depression,” he says.
Henry is among the millions of people suffering from depression in the country. A recent report by the World Health Organization ranked Kenya sixth among countries with the highest number of depression cases in Africa. The report, dubbed Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders and which was released last year, showed that 1.9 million depression cases were reported in Kenya by 2016. However, the figures reflected the diagnosed hospital cases leaving those who don’t go to hospital unaccounted for.
Depressed men experience feelings of hopelessness, despair, low self-worth, sadness, change in appetite, sexual problems and increased fatigue. Other overlooked signs of depression among men include physical pain, anger and reckless behaviour such as driving irresponsibly or engaging in unsafe sex. However, its causes, symptoms and treatment varies from one victim to another.
The common risk factors of depression include low self-worth, stigma, stress, environmental factors like exposure to poverty or violence and genetic factors. Others include loneliness and lack of social support, inability to effectively deal with stress, alcohol and drug abuse, and childhood abuse or trauma. A lot of victims opt to go silent about what they are going through.
Men suffering from depression are four times more likely to commit suicide than women, so it’s vital for any man to seek help with depression before feelings of despair become feelings of suicide. The common ways of treating depression include medication, psychotherapy, self-help and coping, and electro-convulsive therapy.
On self-help, you should:
Seek social support
Exercise for greater mental and physical health
Aim for eight hours of sleep and keep stress in check
Eat a healthy diet to improve how you feel
Challenge negative thinking
According to Samuel Maina, a psychiatrist, depression is as a result of mental pain and it stems from life’s frustrations. Maina advises men to get education on mental health so that they can come up with their own solutions even when facing challenges. “Depression can lead people to drugs and other vices,” says Maina.
He urges people suffering from depression not to fear opening up as this will help them overcome it. “If you realise your friend is talking a lot, be careful not to silence him. Let him talk about the issues bothering him as he may get healed in the process,” advises Maina.