My friend Peter needs a hook up, can you hook him up? (#HookPeterUp)4:51:00 AM
It is past 4am and I am sitting on my carpet with my sketch pad. The last time I sat here all night like this wondering what my next step will be was when I had a bad December, I was really depressed and just wanted out. Today I am here telling God, I am not leaving this floor until we hook Peter and many other Kenyans up. As he stated in his text, I don't want him to have the will power to push another day, I want him to have the basic needs to live his life and live it to the fullest. I know a few people who will read this and think, Sitawa you never learn,do you? Instead of taking your meds and sleeping as much as you can, you are working this late into the night or early morning, but I cannot bring myself to sleep until I have an idea on how to hook Peter up.
Who is Peter anyway?
Well Peter is man heading to his 50s who has bipolar. He wrote to me at the beginning of 2014 and I have walked with him ever since; from his medical issues to legal ones, I have attended court hearings with him, gotten him pro bono lawyers through MMMF partnership, seen him get on new meds and receive counselling, called and texted him and what is keeping me up tonight is how to walk with him through livelihood issues.
When I went to see the doctor in December after my long depression dip and he gave me new meds, I almost caused a tantrum at the pharmacy when the bill totaled Ksh 6,000, like every month I have to spend Ksh 6,000 and that's exclusive of doctor's consultations fee and food, yes these meds make you very hungry and very drowsy so you need to eat (now you know why my eyes look closed on my instagram pictures, my cheeks have grown). I recently raised it up in a mental health workshop I attended and all these lovely doctors in the room said they can hook me up with meds. But who will hook Peter up? Who will hook all those people who take the bold step to go see a doctor because of their mental health/epilepsy issues but cant afford Ksh 6,000 per month? And if they hook them up with the meds, where will food to sustain the meds come from? For many people living with mental health conditions, it is either the food or the meds and the food wins everyday. To be sincere between running the FREE SMS line 22214, paying salaries, office rent, internet, airtime and expenses for our awareness drives, I am not sure I could afford Ksh 6,000 per month...and as I sit here thinking about Peter, I think about myself and how I got here, I think about the millions of people across this country who may be going through what Peter is going through, people who aren't celebrities to get a nation wide fundraising done on their behalf, people we may never hear about save from some World Health Organization stats and I know I cant give up on them just I haven't given up on Peter or myself...as I sit here, I think what would be the best way for all of us to be hooked up.
So far on my sketch pad I have this;
1. The National Council of Persons living with Disabilities should be more vocal and spread word to the nation and to counties that mental health conditions are disabling, just because they aren't visible doesn't mean they don't exist or disable people. By doing so, funds allocated for persons with disabilities can be tapped by those with mental health conditions and used to create a livelihood projects through which they can get food and also meds. Unfortunately the council works with people in groups and I am not sure how Peter will benefit from this. My idea so far is to start a group therapy session under MMMF and have all the members register under the council then start a livelihood program for them. In the meantime, Peter told me he wouldn't mind a job, any type of job...I know where he is coming from, I have been there before and I will see how this idea will pan out.
2. Medicine should be made affordable, insurance companies don't cover us, that's just another story in itself...but it will make no sense for Peter to earn Ksh 6000 a month and give it all to a pharmacy. understand that the government body in charge doesn't stock most clinics with our drugs or some clinics have expired drugs and when I raised this during the above mentioned mental health workshop, the answer I got was its more of a demand and supply thing. If no one is asking for mental health drugs, they are not bought so clinics cant be stocked. To me the issues are way greater than the asking or more economic principle, its about awareness, its about stigma reduction, its about hospitals in Kenya living by that article in the constitution that says I am meant to receive the highest attainable health services...but how can I get that when most hospitals don't offer mental health services? why will this demand for our drugs come from when there are no facilities and services for me to get the prescription? So as MMMF we are doing on the ground awareness and look forward (years for hoping are long gone) to a ripple effect.
This year I am more on the ground and less online...lets get things moving, lets get people mental health conditions hooked up with the right information and the right support and in the long run, lets hook them back with their hope and dignity as human beings because that's who we are way before our illness.
I am open to any ideas and partnerships to make this happen for the greater population and more so for Peter.