Address growing mental health crisis among PWD
PURITY NTHIANA and EVELYN ODHIAMBO
Persons with disabilities confront isolation and exclusion and remain on the fringes of society.
The Kenya 2019 census showed that 2.2 per cent (900 million) of Kenyans live with some form of disability.
Many disabled persons in Kenya live in extreme poverty, have limited opportunities for accessing education, health, housing and employment opportunities.
Our societies have been structured and socialised to demonise disability to an extent parents with children with disabilities hide them in very bad conditions due to fear of stigma, shame and violence.
This culture of hiding, or killing, children with a disability has led to increased exclusion of persons with disability and stigma leading to depression among parents or guardians caring for persons with disabilities.
Persons with disabilities are equally affected and often suffer mental illness from fear of being abused, laughed at and secluded.
The persistent discrimination of persons with disabilities, continue to exacerbate their living conditions and affects their mental health.
Mental health of persons with disabilities in many households increases by day, especially if they are under caregivers who have lost their income due to the current pandemic and are unable to continue to provide basic needs. Persons with disabilities are often regarded as a burden.
The shift of focus to Covid-19 has made it difficult to access services and commodities for people with disabilities. The restrictions have further worsened their isolation, leading to increased cases of depression.
It’s sad that in the 21st century, 85 per cent of Kenyan schools, hospitals and working places are not disability friendly.
The lack of resources such as clutches and white canes for their movement not only frustrate them but also limit their potential.
Using innovative and more people-friendly related approaches when advocating for issues of persons with disabilities is vital to ensure timely and effective support.
We should have inclusive information services and commodities in the health care facilities, conduct advocacy campaigns to mobilise partners and resources while raising awareness among decision makers and the general public on persons with disability and the need to ensure they are intentionally and meaningfully included, involved and protected.
Organisations working for, and with, persons living with disabilities should be able to create safe spaces for suicide prevention conversations and other special initiatives that look into the mental well-being of caregivers and persons with disabilities.
In order to protect the mental health of persons with disabilities we call on the State in compliance with the United Nations conventions on the rights of persons with disabilities to express its commitment clearly and firmly and implement urgent measures so that persons with disabilities receive adequate medical care without any kind of discrimination.
Kenya needs to create a society where every individual has an active role to play regardless of sex, gender, age or disability.
Such a society is based on fundamental values of equality, equity, social justice and freedom for all.
— Nthiana is a youth advocate at Network of Adolescent and Youth of Africa while Odhiambo is the Youth Coordinator at Reproductive Health network Kenya