World Health Organization (WHO) is celebrating April 7th as the World Health Day, since 1950. The institution has also been dedicating each years’ World Health Day to increase awareness in certain health problems, since 1995. This years’ theme is depression, which has become the most serious health problem in the world. The WHO’s slogan for 2017 World Health Day is: “Let’s Talk!”
Most serIous health problem today
Most recent numbers, published by the WHO, show that over 300 million people suffered from depression around the world in 2015, and depression has become the number one reason that holds people back from having a normal life. While, 81% of depression patients live in low and middle-income countries, women are reported to be diagnosed more frequently than men. Although, depression is equally common among all age groups, its’ most terrifying effect is seen in youngsters, as depression-linked suicide is the second largest cause of death between ages 15-29. Furthermore, the relationship between depression and many mental and psychal health problems are well-documented in scientific literature.
Governments’ InactIon Is costly
Unfortunately, governments are not taking sufficient action against the growing threat from depression. Countries spend only 3% of their health budgets to mental health, while this ratio decreases to 1% in less developed countries. WHO President Margaret Chan argues that the 18% increase in depression during the past ten years was a warning for governments to pay more attention to the subject.
The insufficient effort against depression has also a huge economic cost. A research by the WHO, carried in 36 countries, shows that the economic damage from depression-related job losses would reach an annual $1 trillion, in the next 15 years. On the other hand, every additional $1, spent for the fight against anxiety and depression, would cut this loss by $4.
Looking at Turkey, we see that the number of individuals, who use anti-depressants, has reached 12 million, while the number of anti-depressants sold has shot up to 45 million boxes in 2016. Considering that there are only 43 psychiatry specialists per 1.000.000 people and only 3,5 million diagnosed depression patients, it is very hard to argue that use of anti-depressants was in control. That’s why we put more importance in the WHO’s slogan.
The WHO recommends anti-depressants combined with psychotherapy in severe depression cases. On the other hand they argue that therapy would be the sufficient and preferred treatment in patients diagnosed with milder depression.
This is where the slogan “Let’s Talk” comes in… It emphasizes both the importance of getting psychological counselling and the need to fight the fear of stigma. Latest data show that, even in developed countries, half of those suffering from depression did not seek professional treatment. We have previously written about fear of stigma being among the primary reasons, which held individuals back from seeking psychological help.
Mental health problems are as normal as physical ones and they are not to be ashamed of. The WHO emphasizes that talking to someone we trust is the first step to the treatment of depression. Therefore, you can talk to someone around you suffering from depression and help them more than you think.
Then, “Let’s Talk!”
(This is the translated and edited version of my article in Turkish, published in Terapist Blog. The Blog belongs to my wife, who is a Psychiatrist MD, and it is a part of her start-up counselling application.)