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David Shilaho

My name is David Shilaho, I live in Nairobi, Kenya and I am here talking about how COVID 19 has effected the mental health of people here in Kenya.


2020….when the year began people had high hopes for a good and prosperous year.  However as the year has progressed it has turned out totally different.  Here in Kenya, for people coming from a background of poverty, the impact of COVID 19 has been worse.  75% of people in Nairobi run small businesses, work in domestic or industrial jobs which don’t pay a lot of money.  It’s always a hand to mouth situation.  When this pandemic started and the country went into lockdown, it made life even more difficult for the poor.  People could not travel or work and life came to a standstill.  Families depending on an income for survival suffered greatly.  Also the economy suffered in general because people who were financially reliant on each other for business no longer had any means to buy or sell.


Personally, as a teacher, I lost my job because the school where I worked was closed.  I was sitting in the house facing the reality that I had a wife and two children to support and rent to pay but no way of making any money.  Thinking about that caused me to become engulfed in a feeling of darkness where I didn’t know how tomorrow was going to be.  In the midst of all that, the negative aspects of my life became more pronounced.  For example, I started toying with the idea, what if I didn’t exist, what if I just moved back to my rural home, what if I just decided to take my own life because the situation was so bleak….all those ideas ran through my mind.  But I thank God because I was lucky enough to have good friends who were able to financially help me during this time.


However, some of my friends, were not so lucky.  Some of my friends who could not pay their rent had to sell household items, their landlords threw them out of their houses, and many had to relocate to the it rural homes.  Others like my very good friend, also a teacher, committed suicide.  The land lord was very cruel to him because he could not pay rent – she removed his door, threw his things out of his home.  Then, his wife took their child and  left him to stay with her sister because she did not believe he could support them anymore.  On the day he killed himself, he texted his wife telling her if she came back to the house not to enter the bathroom.  The wife got worried, so she sent a friend to go check on her husband.  When the friend arrived, he found the husband unconscious, his wrists having been slit by his own hands.  He was rushed to hospital but died.  He left behind child who is one year and a half years old.


Here in Kenya, it is much easier to get treated for a physical illness than a mental illness.  There are mental health resources here in Kenya, however they are largely inaccessible because they are too expensive for the average Kenyan to afford.


During this time, I have helped maintain my mental have by trusting in God and being very hopeful.  I look at today as bad but I know the next morning I will wake up and things will get better.  I have also been blessed by friends who support me and by my wife and children who keep me happy.  I look at the worst that had happened in our country to other people and I compare it to my situation and I am grateful that somehow I am better off.


Amongst my friends, I want to mention Justin, who I’ve known for the last 10 years, who has supported me financially during this time. If it had not been for him, I might have gone through with some of my initial thoughts.  God bless him.


I hope in the future, that the world learns from what has happened and be better prepared for the next pandemic.  Also through this pandemic, I have learned who my real friends are and I hope that in the future I am able to better understand who to depend on.