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Lack of jobs driving youth to depression

Experts have sounded the alarm over high levels of mental disorders among the youth, warning that it could be worse if nothing is done to address rising levels of unemployment and declining parental care.

At least 4,000 young people visited Kenyatta National Hospital in 2013 seeking treatment for mental-related disorders, a figure that could increase to more than 5,000 this year, said the hospital’s head of the Mental Health Unit, Dr Mak’ Anyengo.

“These cases are on the increase with majority of the patients being under 35. This is a reflection of the bigger picture of the community,” the psychologist said.

The most at risk are unemployed young people living in urban areas. This is as a result of pressure coming from economic hardships and drug and substance abuse, she said.

Societal pressure

“The cases may go up if the economic situation does not get any better. Young people are depressed, they are desperate,” said Dr Anyengo.

In addition, she said parents in urban areas had abdicated their responsibility due to work demands, leaving children to stray and succumb to societal pressures.

Dr Anyengo gave an example of Dagoretti Constituency, where a recent survey revealed that over 50 per cent of children in two schools with a population of 3,000 had suffered from one form of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

Many children are falling into depression as a result of GBV which could lead to mental disorders. For this, the psychologist blamed absentee parents.

“The upbringing of children is very important. Unfortunately parents have become very busy and left their children without care,” she said.

She highlighted pressure from school, HIV infection and lack of counselling as other factors leading to mental disorders and suicide among the youth.

Cases of suicide are not new at KNH. Every year, the hospital records at least five cases, at times the cases are higher.

Most of the suicides occurred as a result of patients mental disorders, said the hospital’s spokesman, Mr Simon Ithae.

Dr Anyengo decried low funding from the government to deal with increased mental cases in the country.

KNH has only two clinical psychologists while the number of patients increases daily.