In a week that brought profound change to The University of Eastern Africa, Baraton, (UEAB) the Student Association (SABU) orchestrated a dynamic seven-day event, the Mental Health Awareness Week, from September 10th to 16th. This event served as a poignant reminder that our mental well-being is equally as vital as our physical health.
SABU, in collaboration with esteemed partners including the School, Equity Bank, NACADA, Red Cross, Baraton Sacco, Akili Foundation, Kapsabet Referral Hospital, Moi Teaching Referral Hospital, and Nandi County Government, orchestrated a remarkable success.
This event created a platform for students to share their personal stories while delivering crucial resources. These initiatives aimed to establish a comprehensive and supportive environment, where individuals can seek help without fear of judgment or embarrassment. Breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health is not just a compassionate act but also an essential step toward enhancing overall well-being.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 700,000 people succumb to suicide each year, with mental illness playing a significant role. As a lower-middle-income country, Kenya bears a 77% share of the global burden of suicides within economies of similar status.
In an exclusive interview, SABU President Jepchumba Ruto elaborated on the motivation behind organizing this campus event. She emphasized the importance of combatting stigmatization among youth.
“We initiated this effort because our primary goal is to help students cope with the daily stresses we all encounter in life. We aim to combat stigma, as some of our fellow students face mental health challenges, and we also seek to broaden our understanding of mental health. We refuse to be left behind as Baraton University,” she stated emphatically.
UEAB’s counselor Ms. Loice Ngetich, stressed the significance of acknowledging mental well-being and its impact on overall health. “It is crucial to recognize that mental health is a shared responsibility. Governments, healthcare providers, employers, schools, and communities must collaborate to ensure that mental health services and programs are readily available,” said Ms. Ngetich.
Incorporating mental health into policy, allocating adequate funds, and fostering collaborative care can empower individuals to take charge of their mental well-being and prevent the exacerbation of mental health issues.
“Society must play a pivotal role in advancing mental health and breaking the stigma. By educating ourselves about mental health, engaging in open discussions, and extending kindness and support to those in need, we can foster community unity and understanding,” she added.
Prof. Henry Etende from Machakos University acknowledged UEAB’s commendable efforts in raising awareness, especially among the youth. He emphasized the importance of seeking consultation and utilizing available resources for mental health support.
“When life’s challenges become overwhelming, our youth often turn to drugs and substances in an attempt to delay confronting their problems. This needs to change through participation in programs like this one,” he emphasized.
“Baraton University has taken a remarkable step in this direction, which should serve as an example for other institutions, as this is where a significant proportion of youth mental health challenges manifest. This event will undoubtedly impact students’ well-being, contributing to our country’s economic development,” Prof. Henry remarked.
Mwaniki Kelvin, a Software Engineering student at UEAB who has greatly benefited from this week, emphasizes the importance of self-care.
“It’s crucial to understand that self-care is not a selfish act; it is a necessary one. By setting boundaries, practicing mindfulness, and engaging in activities that bring joy, individuals lay the foundation for good mental health. Recognizing that taking time for oneself is not just beneficial but essential has been a valuable takeaway from this week,” Mwaniki concluded.