In the recent past, the media have been awash with stories on depression, highlighting how widespread the problem is.
The affliction has not spared men, who are traditionally perceived as inherently strong enough to overcome all challenges life hurls at them.
One of the reasons attributed to the rising cases of depression, especially among men, is lack of someone to share ‘heavy burdens’ with. Again, men shy away from seeking help lest they appear like they are not ‘man enough’.
This is what drove Anthony Waweru to start an application that could offer a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on.
Mr Waweru says his digital platform ‘Man Up, why talk about it’ can help men cope with anxiety, stress, depression or grief.
The special focus on men by Mr Waweru, an Interactive Media Design student at the Technical University of Kenya, is because he felt that they are ignored because of their perceived resilience and capacity to withstand life’s shocks.
The app, he says, helps men to express their emotions and anxieties in the comfort of their privacy.
“As men, we have all experienced instances where we have been told to man up and not to show signs of weakness. So I thought why not build a platform that could be discreet. The app helps get around the stigma of seeking help at a counselling centre,” he says.
Depression is the second most common mental health problems among Kenyans after anxiety.
“Unfortunately, it goes undiagnosed because most people do not recognise the symptoms. Depression affects men and women differently,” he says.
Men with depression engage in inappropriate and even dangerous behaviour such as reckless driving, risky sports or past-times, and unsafe sex. Some gamble their wealth, ignoring the needs of their dependents.
Mr Waweru says his app can indicate when the user’s level of stress is heightened or when he or she is in an anxious state. The app then connects them in real-time with resources needed to address the problem.
“We will have volunteers on a 24-hour basis to talk to those facing depression. But there is plenty of information on the app that could just help assess and deal with the stress and anxiety level someone is going through,” he says.