According to the World Health Organization, mental disorders currently account for about 12.5% of the total burden of disease. This is expected to rise to15% by 2020.
Whereas the resource-rich countries have the ability to address the problems posed by mental disorders, this is not the case with poor developing countries, most of them in Africa. For most countries South of Sahara and outside South Africa, and with the exception of Kenya, they have one psychiatrist for more than one million populations. The Kenyan situation of one psychiatrist for about half-million population is no solace at all. Most of the psychiatrists (just about 70 in May 2009) are to be found mostly in the main urban areas where many are not involved in day-to-day clinical work for the general public who cannot afford private treatment. Similarly, we have a gross deficiency of other health professionals with an interest in mental health.
The long and short of it is that many people in Africa with mental illness grope in the dark. They have no access to appropriately trained mental health workers to turn to. They do not even know when they have mental disorders except when they are grossly disturbed when friends and relatives go seeking for the hardly available services.
It is therefore necessary to impart some knowledge to the general public so that at least they can recognize the more subtle disorders in addition to the severe ones. Through knowledge they can have increased awareness and seek help from friends. More importantly, they will understand themselves.
The book covers a wide range of topics. It includes mental health disorders and how they are generally recognized and managed, covering the whole spectrum of life. It also includes description of subjects of interest in relation to mental disorders. These include rights of people with mental disorders and the spiritual aspects of mental disorders to emphasize the fact there is nothing demonic about mental disorders any more than anything being demonic about malaria. People also find themselves in special situations, such as the prospects of death and dying, either of a relative or friend. People also have to deal with emotions as a result of the death of a relative or a friend. Of special interest is the person who is facing imminent death of self and knows about it. There are also those who actually think of taking away their lives.
Besides describing those common situations, the book also addresses various approaches to the management of various mental health disorders and situations, by mental health workers but most importantly what they can do for themselves in their homes and in mitigations against the costs and stigma of mental illness. The book has given a chance to people with mental disorders to express themselves.
It is hoped this book will serve to demystify mental disorders, and in the process significantly destigmatize people with mental disorders and in the process allow them together with their relatives, to come forward and demand for equal treatment, services and rights from the health professionals, policy makers, and medical insurers. This book is a must-read for everybody who cares for their mental well-being and that of others.