Depression is leading cause of ill-health, disability, says WHO
• UN agency blames burden on lack of support for persons with mental disorders, fear of stigma
Ahead of the World Health Day (WHD) 2017 on Friday, April 7, 2017, depression has been identified as the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide with more than 300 million people now living with condition, an increase of more than 18 per cent between 2005 and 2015.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its latest estimates released over the weekend said lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives.
WHO also identified strong links between depression and other non-communicable disorders and diseases. It noted that depression increases the risk of substance use disorders and diseases such as diabetes and heart disease; the opposite is also true, meaning that people with these other conditions have a higher risk of depression.
According to the health organisation, depression is also an important risk factor for suicide, which claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year. It said increased investment is also needed because in many countries, there is no, or very little support available for people with mental health disorders.
Depression is a common mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that people normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for 14 days or longer.
In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
The high point in WHO’s year-long campaign, WHD, is “Depression: Let’s talk”. The overall goal of the campaign is that more people with depression, everywhere in the world, both seek and get help.
WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, said: “These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves.”
Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO, Dr. Shekhar Saxena, said one of the first steps is to address issues around prejudice and discrimination.
“The continuing stigma associated with mental illness was the reason why we decided to name our campaign depression: Let’s talk, “For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment and recovery. A better understanding of depression and how it can be treated, while essential, is just the beginning. What needs to follow is sustained scale-up of mental health services accessible to everyone, even the most remote populations in the world,” Saxena said.
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