By David Njagi
Parents who react negatively to children with psychosocial disorders may discourage them from seeking treatment.
Case studies shared during a Users and Survivors of Psychiatry in Kenya (USP Kenya) media workshop reveal that children who are shown love by their families are more likely to adhere to treatment than those who are shunned.
In cases where parents are hostile to psychosocial disorders in the family, the children are even likely to become suicidal.
“I have tried to commit suicide twice because my family could not understand my bipolar condition,” said Tabitha. “They even took me to a police station to force me to take medicine.”
USP Kenya officials say such conflict can be solved by providing mental health services within the communities instead of restricting them to mental health institutions.
According to Michael Njenga, an official with the organization, treating psychosocial disorders is not only about medication, but it also requires family support and care.
“Family support is very important in mental health treatment because when someone is going through a traumatic experience one needs to go through counseling,” says Njenga.
Human rights activists accuse the society of stigmatizing people living with mental disability. This could explain why the hostility is extended to the family level.
“Tracking people living with mental disabilities for treatment becomes very difficult in Kenya because they are stigmatized by both the society and the family,” says Elizabeth Kamundia, a human rights activist. “This is why most of them are locked away from the public by the family.”