Some 350 million people of all ages, incomes and nationalities suffer from depression. Millions more -- family, friends, co-workers – are exposed to the indirect effects of this under-appreciated global health crisis.
Depression diminishes people’s ability to cope with the daily challenges of life, and often precipitates family disruption, interrupted education and loss of jobs. In the most extreme cases, people kill themselves. Approximately one million people commit suicide every year, the majority due to unidentified or untreated depression.
People develop depression for a number of reasons. Often, different causes -- genetic, biological, psychological and social -- combine to provide the trigger. Stress, grief, conflict, abuse and unemployment can also contribute. Women are more likely to suffer depression than men, including following childbirth.
A wide variety of effective and affordable treatments are available to treat depression, including psychosocial interventions and medicines. However, they are not accessible to all people, especially those living in less developed countries and the least advantaged citizens of more developed nations. Among the barriers to care and services are social stigma and the lack of general health care providers and specialists trained to identify and treat depression. This is why the World Health Organization is supporting countries through its Mental Health Gap Action Programme.
Depression is not simply a matter for health experts. We can all act to relieve the stigma around depression and other mental disorders – perhaps by admitting that we may have experienced depression ourselves, or by reaching out to those experiencing it now. On World Mental Health Day, let us pledge to talk more openly about depression. This is the first critical step to removing one of the barriers to treatment and helping to reduce the disability and distress caused by this global crisis.