Empathy; A good kickoff in understanding mental health illnesses

Three pills are spread on a red Maasai shawl on a Twitter post by Shantal Kisimba captioned:

“My daily routine every morning and every night, I have to make sure I take medication for my brain. I am not ashamed for taking medicine for my brain…”

Her tweet went viral, garnering support for a health condition that is still clouded in misinformation and stigma. Shantal’s post only capturing a highlight of the last four years since she was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and schizophrenia in 2019.

She says the symptoms were gradual. At first she experienced shortness of breath and pain in her joints; physical signs that initially made the doctor conclude that she might be developing asthma or heart disease but after further examination, it was established that Shantal was suffering from anxiety, a mental health disorder and was put on medication to manage the panic attacks.

“I have always been fascinated by the human mind and after this diagnosis I widely researched about panic attacks to understand what I was going through,” she says.

The panic attacks were on and off for the better part of 2020, this was during the Covid-19 pandemic. Her symptoms had graduated from shortness of breath to heart palpitations but this grew worse in 2021 despite her taking her medication. Shantal also noticed that that she was now fatigued, and her excitement with life had waned.

“I was crying all the time uncontrollably, I could not control my mood and when I went to a psychiatrist, I was told I was depressed,”

The psychiatrist prescribed anti-depressants to Shantal, and as she began taking the medication, she noticed that she had developed insomnia and nausea and she asked for a review of the medication she was taking.

“The thing with mental health medication, its still about trial and error until you find what works for you,”

2022 is the year Shantal’s life was grounded. She had a severe panic attack that saw her faint while she was in kitchen. She was not alone and her mother and brother were at hand to rush her to hospital.

“By this time the depressive feelings were taking a toll on me and I had episodes where I contemplated self-harm, I had also grown tired of the numerous trips to hospital,” she said.

Shantal recounts of a time when her mother walked in on her as she was just about to over-dose on some medication.

“My mom, saved my life that morning, she is a nurse and she has been a pillar since I got the diagnoses,”

Nighttime had also become difficult for Shantal as she started experiencing hallucinations.

“I would sometimes see animals, spiders and scorpions whenever I closed my eyes in the dark. To date I cannot sleep with the lights off,” she said.

She would also, start experiencing delusions where her mind would tell her people were hearing her thoughts, or she had spoken out aloud when in fact she hadn’t uttered a word.

Then came the psychotic episodes that made her disconnected from reality. This time, the psychiatrist established that Shantal had schizophrenia; a mental health disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally.

“I was confined to the house, I could not go outside because I would be triggered and have a psychotic episode,” she said.

On one occasion, Shantal had to be admitted to hospital for two weeks because her depressive state had gotten worse.

“I had to be sedated so that I could rest. I had to be monitored round the clock because once again I was contemplating self-harm,” she recounted.

Prior to her mental illness, Shantal, a graduate of environmental studies ran several businesses that had shutdown in the course of her diagnoses and treatment.

She has had to move back home with her parents.

“My family has been supportive, my mother has nursed me through my sickness, I owe her a lot,” she said.

Consistently taking her medication is what gave her reprieve towards the end of 2022. She can now go out of the house and interact with people. Shantal also sought therapy to help her cope with her mental illness and has been vocal about mental health and illness.

“Having a mental health illness does not define me and it can happen to anyone. We need to normalise mental health conversations in order to fight the stigma and discrimination associated with it,” she urged.

When she is not advocating for mental health on her social media pages, Shantal runs Sunshine, a project she began in 2017 where she shares her passion for writing motivational articles but has since graduated into an avenue where she speaks boldly about her personal experiences with mental illness and creating awareness.

“Not okay is okay is our slogan. I put myself out there so that I can help those struggling silently with their mental health and the response has so far been encouraging,” she said.

A 2022 Lancet Commission Report on ending stigma and discrimination in mental health faults media for perpetuating mental health stigma and discrimination.

The study spoke with 391 respondents in 45 countries, where seven in 10 people with mental health conditions reported that the media made stigma and discrimination worse.

Professor Sir Graham Thornicroft, a co-chair of the commission report, from the Centre for Global Mental Health at King’s College London says social contact is the most effective intervention against stigma and discrimination.

“Media around the world must commit to fundamental change to actively reduce stigma and discrimination in mental health,” says Professor Thornicroft.

The reports also seeks the inclusion of people with lived experience of mental illness in media stories to better address the narratives that promote stigma.

According to the United for Global Mental health, an international advocacy network concerned with lessening mental health suffering worldwide through prevention, care and treatment of mental ill health and substance-use disorders, the media can be part of the solution as much as it is, for now, part of the problem.

“The media has the power to challenge stereotypes and normalise mental health conditions through reporting that creates greater societal awareness and support,” says Sarah Kline, CEO of United for Global Mental Health.

For Shantal, her experience with mental illness has been a learning point for her family and community and she is grateful she hasn’t encountered stigma and discrimination.

“My family is not ashamed of me, this has been a learning point for them to know about mental illness and we are creating awareness in our community,” she said.

Shantal hopes the government will subsidise mental health treatment, since she is not working and she depends on her mother to get medication which she says is expensive.

“One tablet of the anti-psychotic medication that I take daily is 70 shillings, the government needs to make these medications affordable,” she noted.

May is Mental Health Awareness month and Shantal has spent the better part of this month speaking about mental wellbeing as a priority for all. Her advocacy focusing more on empathy for people living with mental illness.

“Don’t judge or stigmatise someone struggling with a mental illness. Offer support and empathise.” she urged.

The World Health Assembly took place this month at the WHO Headquarters in Switzerland where United for Global Mental Health joined participants from across the world to agitate for the integration of Mental Health in Public Healthcare and also have the media take action by remove stigmatising content and issue policy statements and action plans on how media will actively promote mental health and consistently contribute to reduction of stigma and discrimination in mental health.

Incase you need help with your mental health the following helplines are toll free:

Support Line Kenya– provides counselling and mental health support.

Tel: 254 20 3000378

Childline – a 24-hour toll-free helpline that supports children who are in distress or abused.

Do you love solving puzzles?

Join our community and solve the Puzzling fun with our range of crosswords

image of various puzzles image of background wavy graphic

AM Live

AM Live is NTV's morning current affairs show that sets the agenda for the day with insightful panels every weekday.

Business Redefined

Business Redefined is Kenya’s premier thought leadership platform for unpacking matters regarding economic and finance policy as well demystifying complex developments in the region’s capital markets.

Daily Politics

This is Daily Politics. Here we look into the ins and outs of everything Kenyan politics. We pull no punches and have no reason to sugarcoat anything that matters to Kenyans.


A collection of our premium content. Diam curabitur vehicula A collection of our premium content. Diam curabitur vehicula

Full Episodes

A collection of our premium content. Diam curabitur vehicula A collection of our premium content. Diam curabitur vehicula

Gumzo La Sato

Gumzo La Sato is a live social issues show that aims to create awareness about issues affecting the larger society. The discussions range from Parenting, Marital bliss and struggles, Oppression, violence, and all matters of the Heart.

Health Diary

Health Diary is a weekly show that highlights different types of diseases/conditions and seeks ways to prevent, treat/manage them. The show debunks this through real life stories and also feature specialists in different fields, to offer medical advice on the same.

Letter To My Younger Self

Letter To My Younger Self is a podcast where guests get to write a letter to their younger self, from which Maxine formulates questions to ask them during the hour-long show.

Mazao Talks

Mazao looks at agriculture and agribusiness

Nation Reports

Nation Reports is a weekly podcast offers an opportunity for listeners to interact with various reporters and journey with them as they unravel the biggest most emotive stories.

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost peeks through the story of Louis Otieno, the times, and everything in between.



Speaking of GEN Z

Speaking of Gen Z brings you entertaining but meaningful conversations about a generation that is trying to navigate through adulthood. Join hosts Michelle, Jackie and Esther as they unravel all things Gen Z.


Sport-On is a 30-minute sports magazine show on NTV and 3 hours on NATION FM. The show seeks to give the sports “fanatics” and “funatics” comprehensive and in-depth coverage of sports both locally and internationally.


Thamani is a business show which is dedicated to emerging issues regarding micro, small and medium size businesses.

The Trend

A two-hour-long live show that airs on Fridays. The show focuses on what is current in the entertainment industry, controversial and popular across all media platforms targeting those aged between 25 and 35 years.

The trend podcast

The trend podcast highlights and captures the best of banter from #TTTT segment that airs every Friday on NTV. It's the TTTT EXTRA

The Wicked Edition

The Wicked Edition with Dr. King’ori seeks to address serious issues through humour and relatable wit. It is a two-part half hour show filmed in front of a live audience


A collection of our premium content. Diam curabitur vehicula A collection of our premium content. Diam curabitur vehicula


Twende is a travel show that highlights beautiful, unique, diverse locations, people, and cultures. The show offers fresh perspectives on familiar locations and memorable experiences in new ones.


This Saturday evening lifestyle show lets viewers share their stories and life experiences as openly & honestly for the purpose of shifting the culture of silence.

VIP Access

VIP ACCESS is Anyiko Owoko’s YouTube and podcast show on Music and Culture dedicated to promoting Africa’s most promising talent and creatives. This podcast grants you VIP access into timeless interviews while providing a platform for rising as well as established artists across the continent. Since launching in 2018, Anyiko has interviewed over 70 African music stars.


This weekly news show aims to have all sides of debate but not be constrained by it, listen to main voices in the contest but not allow them to hold the viewers hostage, entertain debate but allow push back with all due respect.

When death do us part

In this podcast, three widowers openly speak about the process of grief, how they found themselves exposed to the emotional turmoil of losing their wives, and how society still does not know how to deal with them.

Your World

Your World is a health, wellness and variety show. It provides a platform for audiences and experts to share their experiences on how to improve or manage health issues, across Kenya and the Africa region.