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Raising Awareness, Eradicating Stigma: SU Mental Health Awareness Week 2020


Uncharacteristic of the Annual Mental Health Awareness Week celebrations at Strathmore University, the fourth annual event was conducted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic implications.  Happening on Zoom from the 19th to the 23rd of October, the event successfully explored the theme ‘Raising awareness, Eradicating stigma’. The event was organised by the Strathmore Mental Health Club and attended by a host of participants from within the University and beyond. Experienced mental health actors and students were invited as guest panelists to shed light on the various sub-themes as follows: Empathy over stigma, Mental health disorders, Mental health resources, and Mental wellness.

The first panel discussed the role of empathy in eradicating stigma and emphasized the need to choose self-compassion over self-stigmatization. The discussion on stigma associated with mental illness was an eye-opener with some participants admitting that they were more likely to alienate themselves from their loved ones for fear of being rejected than experience the stigma from external sources. The panel further delved into ‘public’ stigma which, more often than not, leads to feelings of low self-esteem. It became apparent that Depression and Anxiety are “more socially accepted” mental disorders while others such as Bipolar Disorder are considered extreme and looked down upon.

The second panel held a discourse on mental illnesses including Depressive disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Addictions, Schizophrenia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to Strathmore University’s clinical psychologist, Dr. Lucy Muturi, these mental illnesses are prevalent among university students. It was established that lack of psycho-social support posed one of the major challenges faced by those going through mental illnesses and a barrier to seeking treatment.

On the confusion that arises in, for instance, ‘normal’ anxiety and excessive/generalized anxiety, Dr Akivaga informed the participants that there exists a universal criterion that is used by psychiatrists to determine the existence of mental illness based on the signs and symptoms that an individual exhibits in totality.

The third panel discussed the mental health resources available to patients with mental illness and their support system. Apart from psychotherapy, internet search and interactions with support groups such as the Mental Health Club were considered resourceful.  It was further added that it was important to look at how close family and friends can help those with mental illnesses and promote the de-stigmatization of people with mental illnesses.

Speaking on ways to foster amicable relations with family during the COVID-19 pandemic, the last panel indicated that adjustment, self-restraint and practising self-development is essential in ensuring a conducive environment for learning and work.

‘Carpe Diem!’ whose meaning is ‘Make most of the present time without thinking of the future’ was the bottom line of the panel discussion. To eradicate stigma, we must be able to raise mental health awareness!


This article was written by Magdaline Muhiu, Writer, Strathmore Mental Health Club, and a 4th Year Law Student.


Would you like to share your experience of living through the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic? Kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu