WHO urges action to tackle “global crisis” of depression

Thursday, October 11, 2012
Geneva: On World Mental Health Day (10 October), the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for an end to the stigmatisation of depression and other mental disorders and for better access to treatment for all people who need it.

Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse said that globally, more than 350 million people have depression, a mental disorder that prevents people from functioning well.
Saxena said depression "is very much treatable" and "can be identified and treated by general doctors and nurses."

However, he said, because of the stigma that is often still attached to depression, many fail to acknowledge that they are ill and do not seek treatment.

Sarah Wollaston, a Member of the British Parliament and a medical professional, said "the stigma that surrounds depression is a major issue" but acknowledged that she only realized "how debilitating this condition is" after suffering herself an episode of post-natal depression.

Another British Member of Parliament, Kevan Jones, said it was important to be supportive and "understanding and recognizing that one in four will suffer from some sort of mental illness in their life and that you will have a family member or friend who suffers from it."

Terming depression, which afflicts 350 million people worldwide, an “under-appreciated global health crisis,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called for an international effort to increase access to a wide variety of effective and affordable treatments and remove the social stigma attached to the illness.

WHO estimates suggest that depression is common in all regions of the world. A recent study supported by WHO revealed that around 5 percent of people in the community had depression during the last year.

World Mental Health Day was initiated by the World Federation for Mental Health in 1992. The day is used by many countries and organizations to raise public awareness about mental health issues and to promote open discussion of mental disorders, and investments in prevention, promotion and treatment services.
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