The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four people is suffering from a mental illness. Look at your 3 best friends. If they are okay then it’s you.
Rita Mae Brown
I don’t know how true this is you be the judge.
Making a difference doesn’t require you to be loaded like Bill Gates or famous. You make do with what you have.In this interview find out what psychology student lucy Jilly Akinyi is doing to change the mental health narrative in this country
Tell us about your background
I am the second born with two amazing sisters. I was born early in the morning, hence the name Akinyi. My parents are my number one idol. I schooled in different schools across Nyanza, Western and Nairobi county. I always aspired to be a Doctor but ended up studying Medical Psychology in Moi University.
Can you pin point a moment in your life when you realized that I want to be a psychologist
Being a Medical Psychologist wasn’t my first plan in life. However, my training in that field began early, as I was a peer counselor from form 1-4, handling many and different issues. I first become interested in the field of mental health when it hit close to home. I noticed how several times people suffered in silence because of a mental condition and even contemplated suicide.
What is the craziest thing that happened to your while you were studying clinical psychology
It occurred when I was in my second year…we were having rotation in the mental unit. It was my first rotation in that unit since in first year we major in medical wards practicing nursing skills. After our rotations with the tutor, a female patient took my hand and started to pull me away , I was a little scared but maintained my calm until the psychiatric nurse came to intervene. It was scary but with time you eventually know how to handle yourself in such situations
What is the biggest barrier to mental health in Kenya?
Inadequate knowledge on mental illness and the disorders thereof. This results into stigma and discrimination of people living with or affected with mental illness. When we lack the proper knowledge, we often have a formed negative perception of mental illness and the mentally ill. In addition to that in the traditional African setting people attribute it to witchcraft or sorcery.
Suicide according to WHO is the 2nd leading cause of death among 15 – 29 year olds globally accounting for 1.4% of all deaths worldwide. There also indicators that out of each adult that dies 20 others were attempting suicide. While we may never know or understand why someone would commit suicide there are signs to watch out for. What are they?
An organization known as SAVE indicted the following warning sign to suicide:
Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself;
Looking for a way to kill oneself;
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose;
Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain;
Talking about being a burden to others;
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs;
Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless;
Sleeping too little or too much;
Withdrawing or feeling isolated;
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and
Displaying extreme mood swings.
Thoughts of Suicide often creeps in with depression , suicide is always a symptom of a particular mental disorder. It can be a mood disorder (depression /bipolar), Eating disorder (Anorexia/ Bulimia), PTSD, Anxiety Disorders, Sleep disorders…the list is endless..Early treatment and management is thus important to prevent suicide.
We cannot speak about suicide and fail to mention depression. WHO also determined that 300 million people globally suffer from it with many cases going unnoticed. I suppose this is because people do not understand what it is. What do you think are the common myths about depression and help us debunk them
I hear many people say the word, ‘I am depressed,’ and they really don’t know what they are talking about. But what they really mean is that they are stressed. Depression can last for weeks to months with catastrophic symptoms such sleep disturbance, anhedonia, pervasive fatigue / loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, recurrent thoughts of death.
The myth that depression and stress are the same is wrong, as stress can go away upon the absence of a stressor while depression won’t. That is the only myth am currently aware of.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health not only in Kenya but also globally. What can we do to change the mental health narrative so that people may get help without fear of being shunned or labelled
There is a lot going round to change the narrative, such as mental illness drive in the communities, for instance the one I organized in Langas, Eldoret to educate community members on different disorders. However, more needs to be done by all of us. We need to openly talk about mental illness in our groups, write about it, listen to your friend when they talk about issues in their lives , refer someone to a mental health professional. The more we advocate for mental health, the narrative changes hence the slogan, ‘Their is no health without mental health.’
Correct me if I’m wrong. Isn’t it stressful to help other people deal with their problems. How do you deal with it?
It is stressful at times like any other job. I know I can’t help someone if am not mentally up to the task, so I unwind by turning to my hobbies to keep me mentally healthy. I love playing basketball, hanging out with my friends and writing contemporary works.
Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. Plato. Who is your favourite author or favourite book
Love the quote by Plato. My favorite author and book depends on the genre. But my all time favorite is Paulo Coelho. His book: Aleph.
You are also a blogger and together with your friend run a medical psychology website. Tell us about it.
I saw the need, felt it, and ran it. I knew we needed a platform where every new student admitted to our course can access learning materials, know about their lecturers, interact with Alumni, with no effort…hence together with a friend we created and launched the Mpy website that still runs up to now: http://medicalpsychologists.wixsite.com/moiuni
I blog because it give me space to share my thoughts
Let’s talk basketball.
So you played in high school and also in your first and second year at uni. Did you ever think of playing professionally and which is your favourite team or player?
I actually thought of playing professionally for a club at one point, but then I realized I may not have the time and my career goals were different.
NBA it’s Stephen Curry, team Golden State Warriors. WNBA it’s Candace Parker, team: LA sparks
Five possessions that you can’t leave without
Bible ,Family ,Notebook ,Pen ,DSM IV manual(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders)
If a kid walked up to you asking for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give them your best advice what would it be?
Where there is a will, there’s a way