Depression in Kenya – Part 1

Source - Newscast, UK

Source – Newscast, UK

Mental health has been in the news a lot in the last one month and I was talking to a friend and saying ‘Oh it is not such a big problem in Kenya really’ and she was adamant that it is a big issue and I should tackle it.

So I did what I always do, I went in search of research that would tell me a bit about depression in Kenya. I don’t know why I assumed that the numbers would be small – perhaps because we do not talk about it much and also perhaps because we stigmatise mental health and want to believe that it only affects certain types of people and we are not them. So I was taken by surprise when I started to read the research articles and have written a short blog – just so I can just sit and digest it all….

I found a small article in The Lancet from 2001 generated from a seminar of the Kenya Psychiatric Association and these were some of the statements in the report……

‘It is estimated that 30% of people seeking outpatient treatment in local health facilities have a treatable mental illness.’

‘However, since most of them exhibit physical symptoms, they end up being misdiagnosed.’

‘Most patients with mental illness are, however, unable to get good treatment because they are not able to get access to a psychiatrist.’

At the writing of the report, Kenya as a whole, had 60 psychiatrists.

I thought that figure suggesting that I out of every 3 patients seeking care at health facilities has a mental health problem – was a bit too high!

Then I found another article.

Dr Caleb Othieno and colleagues from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Nairobi published a paper in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2014, exploring depression in students at the University.

They found that in a population of 923 students, 36% of them had moderate depression and within that group, 52 were severely depressed. This was way higher than the 30% at outpatient clinics.

I could go on – the data has spoken and I was wrong – depression is a huge problem in Kenya. However, both pieces of data suggest that most of the participants had mild conditions which if diagnosed and treated early can resolve fast. Depression can affect anybody and we all need to be gentle with ourselves and accept help when we need it. Please watch this extremely useful World Health Organization video.

I had a black dog

I will write more about depression but I would like to stop here for today and ask you to please watch this video.


  • Mary

    Millions of people around the world live with depression. Many of these individuals and their families are afraid to talk about their struggles, and don’t know where to turn for help… This statement is true.

  • bonface kaimenyi winlight

    am a stundent doing my research on the same….

  • Tabs

    Boniface – do let me know what you find out – i would be happy to write about your findings on this blog when you are done with your analysis. Best wishes with your work