On 12th March of 2020 we confirmed the first case of Covid-19 virus in Kenya, since then, life has never been the same. Every single thing took on a new meaning. From the lifestyle, mental health and well being of adults and children, we couldn’t imagine what awaited us. We had to adapt, and quick, we had to learn to appreciate what we had previously taken for granted; like actually get to live in our houses, with our families and dogs, and yeah, it took a f**king pandemic for us to live. We had to adapt to the pandemic and the proceeding protocols, and we had to adapt quick.
Lockdowns, social distancing and mask mandate had a critical social impact on Kenya’s population. These dynamics led to social and economic disruptions, translating to a changed lifestyle. Kenyans are social and active people, and lockdown mandates meant that thousands had to work from home. Owing to these mandates, there was a decline in physical activities as people worked from home while bars, pubs and entertainment joints remained closed or operation hours limited.
Leisure, entertainment, education and social activities were all affected at the onset of the pandemic. Entertainment joints were closed, which meant that people had to find new sources of entertainment like watching movies at home or just chilling and idling. Unlike the party culture characterized by concerts and music bands, Kenyans had to adopt a new norm of getting entertained from home. We loved our sports but this changed due to the authorities’ lockdown mandates and cession of movement initiatives. Socio-cultural events such as weddings, funerals, initiation ceremonies and political meetings were limited leading to a significant change in lifestyle. The new norm meant that Kenyans had to adapt to a more socially restrained lifestyle in line with the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
The restrictions triggered mental health problems in adults and children. According to UNICEF, Kenyan children have been at a greater risk of suffering learning loss, violence, and other forms of abuse during school closures due to the pandemic. Moreover, school closure meant limited social interactions and playtime for the kids. The closure had associated risks that predisposed children to mental health breakdown. For example, due to school closure, cases of teen pregnancies increased, violence and abuse against children were at their all-time high.
As a result of the violence, abuse and stress, thousands of children suffered mental breakdown. Mental health conditions such like PTSD and depression shot up due to the traumatic experience of the pandemic. Sickness or loss of a family member, a father or a mother worsened the situation for children. It’s hard to deny that Covid-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the mental health of adults in Kenya. Income loss, bereavement, isolation, and fear of the unknown are factors that trigger mental health problems among adults. Lockdown and cession of movement led to loss of jobs and livelihood across the country. Businesses closed, companies downsized and folks retrenched. We became stressed, depressed and worried, and these conditions triggered mental health problems and exacerbated the existing ones. Some resorted to alcohol and drug use to cope with the stress and pressure. The pain of losing loved ones and the burden of taking care of sick friends and relatives didn’t help the situation.
The jury on how much the virus has altered our behavior is still out there. Much has changed though and yet to change even more. We will adapt, like we have to, like we’ve always had to when faced with extinction. That adaptation will shift our perception on things, and with it our reality. Maybe that’s for the better, in fact, it can only be for the better, like it has always been; like it should be. So let the cold come, let winter come, coz whatever happens, it can’t always be winter.