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Depression: Shock link to social media : The Standard

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Young people who spend over two hours a day on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram more likely to show symptoms of anxiety

For more than a year, most of Millicent Kithinji’s Facebook friends ignored her posts, many of which were overwhelmingly laden with clear signs of unhappiness, dissatisfaction with life, depression and suicidal thoughts.

But when she finally reached the tipping point and committed suicide on March 21, her friends, and suddenly the country, were finally forced to take note.
Everything was on a downward spiral from April 2017, when Kithinji posted a picture of her daughter held by her father.
In August 2017, she wrote on Facebook, “Some situations make me think that the dead are at peace than the living”. In October the same year, she asked God to remember her.

SEE ALSO :What Kenyan regulators can learn from UK fake news inquiry

Underlying problems
Again, in November, Kithinji wrote that stress had become a recurrent feature of her life before complaining in December about a woman who gossiped about her and her daughter. Even though her posts were scattered over months, they were indicative of Kithinji’s depression, as well as the underlying problems.
According to her family and friends, Kithinji’s depression was powered by a train of unfortunate circumstances, from joblessness and financial struggles to strife with her child’s father, who she had separated with.
In one of Kithinji’s posts, written a day before her suicide, the mother of a three-year-old girl expressed frustration over her inability to give her daughter a comfortable life despite her immense love for her.
Finally, on March 21, Kithinji hanged herself in an animal shed in her parents’ home.

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According to experts, cases like Kithinji’s show the need to minimise or be more vigilant about social media use, given that it only exerts more pressure on individuals already battling serious problems such as depression.
“People who have low self-esteem, poor impulse control or a tendency toward addiction should pay attention to their social media use. Contrary to many people’s fears, social media does not make someone more socially avoidant or isolated. In fact, it can do the opposite by providing access to people and resources,” notes Pamela Rutledge, a media psychologist.
While in cases like Kithinji’s, people may use social media to cry out for help or attention, there are those that are pushed to feelings of inadequacy as they compare their lives to the glamorous ones of friends splashed on the sites.
Indeed, just last week, after an ugly and highly publicised break-up of a famous Kenyan couple renowned for their glamorous YouTube videos, several young people took to Twitter, confessing how they had been needlessly comparing themselves to the couple’s seemingly perfect life and in the process, developed feelings of inferiority.
One young woman noted: “I loved NatalieTewa’s vlogs but I stopped watching some time last year because the couple looked too perfect and that was giving me pressure”.

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Other social media users joined in, stating that they had felt inadequate as they compared their seemingly basic lives to the couple’s lavish and picturesque lifestyle.
“When you live your life on social media, you are bound to get burnt out and lose hope, as everybody is faking to have the best clothes, food, money, outings, friends… Who remembers her faking to have a cute niece, ” commented one Twitter user recently, making reference to the August 2018 scandal involving a television anchor who was publicly disgraced after it emerged that she habitually posted plagiarised pictures to create the impression of a lavish lifestyle.
In the face of the exposure, she deleted more than 800 photos that she had taken from other sources and passed off as hers, depicting glamorous aspects such as travels, exotic destinations and expensive food.
Numerous studies conducted, specifically on teenagers and young adults, indicate that heavy social media users are at a higher risk of falling into depression.
Instagram and Snapchat have been singled out in some of the studies as some of the social media sites that have a heavy toll on the mental health of young adults.

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SEE ALSO :Snapchat: Verification tools do not stop underage children joining app

Some studies have gone further to link social media to feelings of unhappiness, restlessness or loneliness, which are symptoms of depression.
Glamorous
A May 2017 survey of 1,479 people aged between 14 and 24 by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK found that young people who spent more than two hours a day on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram were more likely to show symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The apps, the study suggested, exacerbated the user’s feelings of anxiety and inadequacy since everyone else’s life looked more glamorous.
“These feelings can promote a “compare and despair” attitude in young people. Individuals may view heavily photo-shopped, edited or staged photographs and videos and compare them to their seemingly mundane lives,” the study said.
Jean M Twenge, a Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, opined that the curation of content posted on social media contributed to feeling of inadequacy.
“Everyone else’s life looks more glamorous than yours because you know everything that’s happening in your life but your friends are only posting about the positive things. It is also very easy to see all the things that we are missing out on so we feel left out much more often,” she said in an interview on CNN in November last year.
Experts agree that social media could be toxic even for those with healthy minds, triggering envy, attention-seeking behaviour, status anxiety, the fear of missing out (FOMO) and unhealthy social comparisons.
These unhealthy comparisons range widely, from juxtapositions about physical appearance to comparisons about spouses, family, finances and careers.
Researchers also say that social media propagates the fear of missing out, which is where people view others’ posts and think: “I personally could have been there and I wasn’t”. Over time, the researchers say, these people start feeling excluded by those close to them, such as family and friends, when they see posts of these people together yet they were not informed of the meeting.
Eventually, experts say, these feelings amount to loneliness and depression, which could pave way for suicide.
Faith Nafula, a psychologist based in Nairobi, advises social media users, especially young people, who she says are most susceptible to the pressures of social media, to take what they see on these platforms with a grain of salt.
“Social media has turned into a show-off platform, she says, adding: “Majority of people are living a lie. It is all hype”.
Healthline, however, also states that it is still unclear whether social media causes depression or whether, in fact, depression drives people to use social sites, noting: “Perhaps those who are more depressed and lonely are more inclined to use social media as a way of reaching out”.
A 2010 study by researchers at the University of Leeds concurs: “Our research indicates that excessive internet use is associated with depression, but what we don’t know is which comes first – are depressed people drawn to the internet or does the internet cause depression?”

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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