Health & Fitness

Mental therapists flourish in tough times

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Summary

  • Many Kenyans have reached a crunch point.
  • Some are deeply unhappy with their work or spouses, a feeling that has been amplified in the pandemic.
  • Others are trying to get their sense of self-worth which has plummeted along with their empty bank accounts.
  • Some workaholics now have lots of time on their hands. Others are anxious that their plans have been scuttled amid a slow economy.

Many Kenyans have reached a crunch point. Some are deeply unhappy with their work or spouses, a feeling that has been amplified in the pandemic.

Others are trying to get their sense of self-worth which has plummeted along with their empty bank accounts. Some workaholics now have lots of time on their hands. Others are anxious that their plans have been scuttled amid a slow economy.

There is a lot of anxiety and behind the anxiety is frustration, infidelity, and alcoholism.

To solve this problem, mental therapists have stepped in to help people cope. Psychologists are flourishing now as demand for counselling grows, from couples seeking therapy to children finding ways to cope with relocation, to businesspeople trying to look for solutions as their revenues drop.

Dr Liz Gichimu, a clinical psychologist says, in her many years of practice, she has been seeing more women embracing therapy compared to men. However, since the onset of the pandemic, there have been more and more men coming in for therapy sessions.

There has been a sharp increase in demand for mental health services in the post-Covid-19, the Mental Health Taskforce indicates.

For those who had mental pressure before the pandemic began, explains Mohamoud Merali, the head of Counselling and Clinical Psychology at Aga Khan University Hospital, they have had to experience it even more now.

“The challenge with stress is that it can be a silent thing. Repeated stress leads to anxiety and repeated anxiety leads to depression. The line between them is very fine and it’s very easy to slip from stress to anxiety and anxiety to depression,” he says.

He adds that the shift in dynamics has affected the social functioning of the family. People are spending more time indoors.

“Wife, husband, children all working from home, at some point this will get to you. Spending too much time in the house is detrimental to relationships,” he says.

For instance, a middle-aged man who used to spend two weekends every month playing golf while his wife visited her family found himself cooped up in the house.

He started getting agitated. He would lash out at his wife and even the cat. Meanwhile, his wife was getting frustrated.

Another couple enjoyed a long-distance relationship which abruptly turned into a live-in arrangement after the restrictions on travel forced her spouse to return. Within the first three months of the pandemic, she was irritable, frustrated, and had a permanent scowl as the new living arrangement took its toll.

According to the Mental Health Taskforce report released in July, mental well-being is shaped to a great extent by the social, economic, and physical environments in which people live.

Another person lost his source of income due to the pandemic and relocated to the village to save on expenses incurred from living in the city. This has shifted his social support system from friends to relatives. It also means that he will have to send his children to a new school. The children are likely to struggle to cope.

Dr Gichimu says in such scenarios, parents have opted to send their children to therapists to help them deal with the changes.

This has largely been due to the shifting family dynamics as a result of the pandemic, where the uncles or aunts that served as ‘advisors’ are also facing their challenges, forcing families to seek alternatives.

“Parents are now referring their children to therapists, particularly mothers,” she explains.