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Kenyan myths associated with Schizophrenia, a mental health condition

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Mental health is a topic that is taboo among Kenyans, with mental illnesses being collectively termed as madness or drug abuse.

However mental illness is not always as a result of drug abuse or witchcraft. It is important to educate ourselves and offer better support to ailing people in our communities and societies.

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Schizophrenia is a mental disease that affects how a person feels, behaves, and thinks.

It is a serious psychiatric disease and should not be confused with split personality.  Eugene Bleuler came up with the term Schizophrenia to denote SCHIZO (split) and PHRENE (mind) thus split mind.

Schizophrenia disease affects one in a hundred people globally.

Diagnosis

A patient is diagnosed following his/her history that is provided by their family to the healthcare provider, since the patients are likely to deny psychotic incidences.

The diagnosis is followed by a physical exam to rule out secondary causes like medications, drugs or medical illnesses.

Apart from the physical examination, neuroimaging and laboratory tests are also conducted.  The medical evaluation may lead to a patient being diagnosed with either of the following sub-types of Schizophrenia; first episode, multiple episodes continuous and unspecified.

Signs and symptoms
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Movement disorders
  • Disorganized speech.

All these four symptoms are called “positive” symptoms as they are generally not seen in healthy people

  • Flatness in expression of emotions or the voice tone.
  • Reduced speaking and dialogues or holding conversations.
  • Difficulty in deriving contentment and pleasure from life’s activities.
  • Lack of follow up after beginning activities

These four symptoms are called “negative” symptoms as they affect emotions and behaviours.

  • Trouble concentrating or paying attention.
  • Troubles in decision making and digesting information.
  • Trouble with working memory or using information after learning it. These three symptoms are called cognitive symptoms.
Myths surrounding schizophrenia
  1. Schizophrenia is caused by bad parenting.
  2. Schizophrenic patients are violent.
  3. Patients do not need medications.
  4. Schizophrenic patients have split or multiple personalities.
  5. Recovery is not possible.
Risk factors
  • Excessive use of cannabis
  • Genes and the environment- interaction between genes and certain environment is a predisposing factor.

Malnutrition before birth, obstetric complications (problems during birth) or hypoxia.

  • Traumatic brain injury to people already predisposed by certain genes.
  • Problems in brain development before birth and ineffective neurotransmitters.
  • Exposure to certain viruses before birth( respiratory, rubella or influenza)
Treatments and therapies

Treatments involve antipsychotic drugs in pill, injection or liquid form.  Some injections are given once or twice a month.

Overall, the drugs have side effects but the doctor can always switch them to cater for you needs.

There is also Co-ordinated Special Care (CSC), which integrates medical, family involvement, case management and employment opportunities.

Indeed, Kenyans need to speak more on mental health and not shun mental illnesses for a healthy society.

Mathari mental hospital does less to help the situation and patients are taken there out of helplessness by the society, not to mention the costs of having a patient there.

In 2011, in an expose termed by the CNN as Locked up and forgotten, dead bodies were found on the day of filming, abandoned.

More needs to be done and a lot spoken about when it comes to mental health.

By Serah Nderi

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