Mental illness is real, let us speak out


We should admit that we are facing a global human rights emergency in mental health in order to understand how to tackle the challenges faced especially by those with psycho-social disabilities.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which conducts the National Health Interview Survey on which the research is based, SPD combines feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and restlessness that are hazardous enough to impair people’s physical well-being. Previous survey estimates had put the number of Americans suffering from SPD at 3 percent or less.

Another study by the National Survey On Drug Use And Mental Health found nearly 20 percent of the adult population suffer from some type of mental illness. This is up from 18.1 percent just a few years ago.

A 2010 study done by the National Institute Of Mental Health found that for the first time, youth are disproportionately affected by mental disorders.

The study found that one in five youth are affected by at least one type of mental disorder.

According to the NCS-A researchers, the percentage of youth suffering from mental disorders is even higher than the most frequent major physical conditions in adolescence, including asthma or diabetes.

Basic Healthcare

All over the World people with mental disabilities experience a wide range of human rights violations.
In many countries especially African countries starting with Kenya people do not have access to basic mental health care and treatment they require.

In others, the absence of community based mental health care means the only care available is in psychiatric institutions which are associated with gross human rights violations including inhuman and degrading treatment and living conditions.

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Public acceptance

It is sad that in countries such as Kenya, mentally ill patients face mistreatment to the extent of being locked in dark rooms without washrooms, such mistreatment triggers and worsens their conditions.

Is unbelievable that the same mistreatment happens even in private facilities where patients have to cough money to get the said services.

As if this is not enough, even outside the health care context, they are excluded from community life and denied basic rights such as shelter, food and clothing, and are discriminated against in the fields of employment, education and housing due to their mental disability.

Many are denied the right to vote, marry and have children. As a consequence, many people with mental disabilities are living in extreme poverty which in turn, affects their ability to gain access to appropriate care, integrate into society and recover from their illness.

The future

Is high time those with and without disability to know the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities  (CRPD).

The UN CRPD – new hope for rights protection ,the Convention sets out a wide range of rights including, among others, civil and political rights, the right to live in the community, participation and inclusion, education, health, employment and social protection.

Its coming into force marks a major milestone in efforts to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights of persons with disabilities.
Those with psycho-social disabilities suffer in silence due to fear of stigma, rejection and mistreatment. For how long? What can we do to get out of the fear and be able to seek help?
Raise awareness and advocate for change. Change begin with us…
Violations often occur behind closed doors and go unreported – unless people know that they are going on, action cannot be taken to stop them.

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As a self mental health Ambassador I raise awareness and advocate for the rights of people, interract and work with mental disabilities and collaborates with individuals and organizations to raise awareness, encourage and disseminate international human rights standards as stipulated on the UN CRPD.

Through social media and other platforms I volunteer to train the society on the rights of people with mental disabilities.
All people and professionals who have an impact on the lives of people with mental disabilities should receive training on human rights issues. Training needs to be provided to:
people with mental disabilities themselves as well as their families – so that they can claim their rights;
health and mental health professionals – so that they understand the rights of their patients and apply these in practice; the police force who are in daily contact with people with mental disabilities; lawyers, magistrates and judges who make important decisions concerning the lives of people with mental disabilities. In Kenya suicide rate is worrying, until when people will understand that depression is real and is an illness, that’s when the issue will be addressed to help stop suicide attempts and suicides.



Phylis Cherop Mwangi is the Founder of SEACOA Kenya and a Mental Health Ambassador. She comments on topical issues revolving around societal well-being.

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