In 2018, The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) reported that 4.9Million Kenyans were abusing alcohol and drugs, with an increasing number of those users being high school students. As well, a national survey conducted in Kenya by Violence Against Children in 2010 found levels of violence (physical, sexual, emotional) to children and adolescents prior to 18 years of age to be 26% (females) and 32% (males). Another study conducted in rural Kenya among 13-20-year-old high school students found that 94.8% had been exposed to potentially traumatic events; including rape (9.8%), physical assault (22.5%), sexual abuse (19.8%), physical abuse (27.8%), bullying (32.2%) and childhood neglect (25.3%).
These numbers may be alarming, but there is growing evidence that links a history of childhood or interpersonal trauma to mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Substance Use. Research indicates that most people with symptoms of anxiety, depression or PTSD use substances to relieve these symptoms and the emotional pain they experience.
With all this evidence at hand, one would expect that more attention would be focused on preventing the risk factors. However, it is well documented that most people only seek help for substance use or mental illness when a crisis occurs, and as such majority of Kenyans turn to rehabilitation centres when they desperately need help or treatment for a loved one.
If you or your family are dealing with the negative effects of alcohol and drug abuse, you don’t have to suffer in silence or watch in desperation. You can learn practical skills to confront, engage, support and advocate for yourself or your loved ones. There is hope and opportunity to interrupt the menace before it destroys your family, and that’s where Irene Njoroge, a mental Health and Addiction clinician and therapist comes in.
Irene has over thirteen years of clinical experience treating, counseling and educating patients with mental health, trauma and substance use disorders and their families. She wants Kenyan families to know that they don’t have to wait until a mental health or substance use crisis happens.
As a Kenyan, and someone who has witnessed first-hand the devastation of mental illness, trauma and alcoholism in her family, Irene is committed to supporting other Kenyan families avoid the debilitating loss and grief that she has experienced within her own family.
She is leveraging her personal and professional experience as a certified Grief and Trauma specialist to be a part of those addressing the growing crisis of mental illness, substance use and domestic conflict in Kenya.
“Public health education for families to discuss the root causes of these issues and measures to prevent them from happening in the first place, and/or effectively engaging, supporting and advocating for treatment for a struggling family member is a more effective way of addressing this growing crisis in Kenya.” Said Irene during an interview with WakenyaCanada.com.
For a number of years, Irene has held multiple educational events for professionals and families in Canada through her work as a mental health and addiction Advance Practice Nurse, and as a Public Health Educator. She does this with CAfRIC International, an organization she founded to champion and promote mental wellness among Black families in Canada.
Irene is reaching out to provide the same to individuals and families that may benefit from these services in Kenya. She will be doing this by offering family education on five module topics that will be rolled out sequentially via Zoom video webinars, in five different sessions, at a cost of Ksh 1000 per session. Irene says that the sessions are more beneficial if taken together as a package, however, participants have the option to register for the session that they feel benefits them the most.
The webinars will cover the five topics. To register for these webinars, you must first create a Zoom account by visiting www.zoom.us. You will then be able to register for the webinars using the email address registered with Zoom. Once on the zoom website, click on Sign-Up, and create a free account with your name and email address.
WakenyaCanada asked Irene why she chose to deliver this education on an online platform, and she outlined three important reasons:
i) Digital society: We live in an era where the internet has become the preferred medium for human interaction. We are constantly engaged in some activity online. However, while the internet has promoted connectivity, in some cases, it has also promoted isolation among those that suffer in silence due to stigma and shame. Irene hopes we can use the internet to promote our well- being.
ii) Accessibility: According to Irene, the Zoom platform promotes accessibility to this education as it provides an opportunity to reach more people. It also offers convenience as participants learn wherever they may be, in the comfort of their homes and outside their busy working hours.
iii) Anonymity: The Zoom platform provides full anonymity for the participants. Each participant can join in the education and even ask live questions without having to identify themselves. Irene says that this is a very helpful feature of the Zoom platform and a very important one for her, as she acknowledges the unfortunate barriers of stigma and shame associated with mental illness and substance use.
Irene is the founder of CAfRIC International, an organization that champions and promotes mental wellness among Black families in Canada.
Risk factors for substance use disorders
By Essie Wambui