Report uncovers high number of Kenyan children suffering mental illness

The report indicated that refusal to go school, bed wetting that is not common and headaches could be signs of mental illness in children

Stock image of a pre-teen girl child

A report by Kenya's Gertrude’s Children Hospital has revealed that four out 10 children could possibly be suffering from mental health illnesses.

Raising alarm, the report noted that most parents didn’t recognize the mental health challenges in their children and those who noticed sought medical assistance when it was too late.

Head of Clinical Services at Gertrude’s Hospital Dr Thomas Ngwiri says there is not one single cause of mental illness, noting that it is a combination of many factors including social environment.

“There isn’t one single cause of mental illness. It is often a combination of genetic pre-disposition, temperaments or ways of thinking, and social stressors and these accumulate for some time,” said Dr Ngwiri.

Dr Ngwiri noted that parents should be keen to take note of signs of mental illness in children which include sleeping difficulties, bedwetting after long dry periods and refusal to go to school.

“Parents must be vigilant to spot any signs of distress in their children sometimes, mental illnesses present with physical symptoms such as abdominal pain, unexplained headaches or fainting episodes,” Dr Ngwiri noted.

Gertrude’s CEO Dr Robert Nyarango on his part insisted that parents should take it upon themselves to help their children seek medical assistance and should overlook traditional approaches to mental health wellness.

“Parents have a responsibility to not only look out for signs of mental distress in their children, but also provide them with access to services that will help them address those issues. While talking about mental illnesses is still seen as taboo in some contexts, ignoring the topic is likely to lead to serious repercussions,” Dr Nyarango noted.

The report by further revealed that the Covid-19 pandemic increased the number of children who were mentally unwell as the long periods away from school exposed many to different forms of abuse.

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