By Wangui Njau
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind… always.” These were words echoed by robin Williams on his struggle with mental illness. A struggle most if not all of us are familiar with either through ourselves or through those around us.
On Thursday 23 September, a Mental Health Talk was held Daystar University in collaboration with the student government (DUSA) and Daystar University Peer Educators and Counselors Club (DUPEC).
This was made possible by the recently appointed chairlady of DUPEC , Ms. Phoebe Mugo.
“When I got to the club and I saw there is no much activity, I started thinking about what can we start doing?” [Sic], stated Ms. Mugo as she strongly echoed that September is the National suicide prevention month.
The event was graced by a few members of Yunitok, the Nairobi campus secretary Mr. Brian Achoka, I choose Life – Africa (ICL) representative, our speaker for the day Mr. James Kagondu a counseling psychologist and members from the Kenya Scouts Association.
The audience got introduced to Yunitok and their background. It was founded from ‘U-Report’ which is a well-known free social monitoring tool designed for young people to strengthen community led development and citizen engagement. It was first launched in Uganda in 2011.
It was developed by UNICEF to improve citizen engagement, inform leaders and foster positive change and is now used in more than 70 countries.
However, in Kenya, the name U-Report had already been trademarked by a media company. Therefore it needed a new name before the tool could be launched here.
In partnership with the State Department for Youth Affairs, National Youth Council, Youth Enterprise Development Fund, Kenya Scouts Association, Kenya Girl Guides Association and the Generation Unlimited Kenya Secretariat, UNICEF organized a two-week online naming challenge to identify potential names for the digital platform and that’s how the name Yunitok came to be.
Yunitok is a platform where young people being the centre of any community can communicate their problems and have them addressed.
The Mental Health talk was illuminating as they debunked the myths and misconceptions surrounding the topic. It was also a platform to network with various individuals present.
The part of the talk that really weighed heavy was that statistics provided by the Taskforce on Mental Health under the Kenyan Ministry noted that men’s mental health cases are on the rise. This was attributed to lack of a safe space for men to talk about their problems or hardships without receiving harsh criticism and stigmatisation.
As the speaker of the day was winding up he left us with the words of robin Williams where he said:
“Depression is not a joke. It is a real illness that doesn’t discriminate. No amount of money or fame can fix it. The funniest man on earth couldn’t just think positive thoughts and be healed. Support those who are battling depression and other mental health issues. It takes lives!”