Mathari Hospital (Part 3)

We got directions to the psychiatric clinic (same place as the lone cashier) and went to get signed up.
The guy who did my intake (a nurse, I presumed) asked who it was getting registered & I handed over my ID for him to take down my details. The process is basically copying down the things at the back of your national ID; the idea being that it’ll help them ‘find your people’ should the need arise. Strange moment: he asked me my level of education and I told him I have a university degree. He then promptly turned to my mom, “Anasema ukweli?”. It ground my gears; I was present, I had answered questions till that point, and I could speak. My mother redirected him, reminded him that the patient speaks her truth. Now I understood the urgent “Who are you with?” from the nurse. The assumption is that every patient is psychotic, delusional, and someone else has to speak for them. What would have happened, I wonder, if I had come alone and been sent that way? Who would have been there to answer his questions?

Anyway, I paid the KSh 200 registration fee, was issued with a file and sat outside a room waiting to be called. When I was, I found a small crowd of student nurses and doctors yet there was only one person taking temperature and blood pressure readings. No wonder the queue was moving so slowly, I thought.

Back outside and a short wait later,  I was called in to see the psychiatrist. In the very same room so no points for privacy. My mother came in with me and as we settled into it, I noticed adverts for psychotropic drugs on the walls. I am still curious about the ethics of adverts in that setting but that’s just me.

I told her about the sleeping, the compulsive eating, the other things, and she asked my mother questions too. Had she noticed these changes? Yes. She asked me, with a sincerity I found startling, why I had come to Mathari if I have a university degree. Why not, I asked. I needed mental health services, they offer them.

She said she would put me on a mood stabiliser and I had my usual routine of asking for non-drug solutions. What would you like, I was asked. Therapy, I was quick to say. She explained to me that she’d send me for psychotherapy after I was done with the dose and it worked. The other option, she pointed out, was psychological care as a walk-in patient at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).

I agreed to be put on the drug for a fortnight and was issued with a prescription as well as a note to be given an appointment for review. I went to the ‘Appointments’ window and got a date and place as my mother filled my prescription. I went back to get the talk from the chemist about taking the drug at the same time every day and I could leave.

We were there almost 6 hours and in the next instalment, I’ll tell you about some of the thoughts and observations about mental health care that came to me during my visit.

Note: This post is part of #CuminWrites366, my year-long attempt to write a post a day. Find the rest over at

Questions, comments, suggestions or thoughts on mental health? Send them to 🙂


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