Depression – a silent, creeping killer
Nasim Ahmed


World Health Day is observed on April 7 every year, the day the World
Health Organization was founded in 1948. The special day is an initiative
of WHO, and its objective is to focus attention on the most important
health issues facing people around the world
Each year a special theme is chosen to highlight a different global
health concern. This year's theme is "Depression: Let's Talk". World
Health Day 2017 marked the climax of a year-long campaign which
seeks to raise awareness of depression and encourage those who are
suffering to seek and get help. Previous themes have included diabetes,
vector-borne diseases, protecting health from climate change and road
According to findings made by WHO, depression is the leading cause
of ill health worldwide. It is estimated that more than 300 million people
are living with depression, an increase of more than 18 per cent between
2005 and 2015. The prevalence of depressive disorder in Pakistan is
more than 40pc with women accounting for 57.5pc. Around 35.7 per cent
citizens of Karachi are affected with mental illness, while 43pc people in
Quetta and 53.4pc in Lahore are also affected. Globally, depression affects
20pc of people while in Pakistan
it is more serious
with an estimated 34pc of the population suffering from it.
In his message on the occasion, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret
Chan said: "The new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to rethink
their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency
that it deserves." Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of
Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO added: "For someone living
with depression, talking to a person they
trust is often the first step towards treatment
and recovery." It is not generally known that
depression has strong links with other noncommunicable
disorders and diseases
such as diabetes and heart disease,
and increases the risk of substance
abuse. Depression is also an important
risk factor in suicide, which
claims hundreds of thousands of lives
each year.
The World Health Day's theme this
has prompted psychologists to earnestly
declare that depression among children
not invited to birthday parties is high. infertility
specialists say childless couples are depressed,
while neurologists say stroke-survivors
are depressed. Depression causes neck
pain and various kinds
of stress tenses shoulder,
back and neck
muscles. On the other
hand, cardiologists say
depression raises risk of
death after heart surgery,
while oncologists
opine that people diagnosed
with cancer are
depressed .
According to medical
experts, a better understanding
of depression
and how it can be
treated is an essentialfirst step towards curing the affliction: "What needs to follow is sustained
scale-up of mental health services accessible to everyone, even the most
remote populations in the world." In this connection, WHO experts have
given five top tips on how to support a friend or loved one who has depression.
These are:
Initiate conversation: Depression can make people want to cancel
plans, stop doing things they would normally enjoy, and want to hide
away from the world. Ask how they're feeling and let them know you are
there to listen. If they know somebody they trust is there to listen to them,
this can be vital for them in managing their condition.
Encourage them to seek help: Your friend or loved one may not think
that they are suffering from depression. They may feel they will be able
to get over their symptoms without help. But if you think it's appropriate,
encourage them to seek help from their GP or one of the many mental
health support groups available. You can even offer to go along to the
appointment as support – but remember it's important not to push them
into anything they don't want to do. It's also important to ensure them
that depression is a common illness, and isn't a sign of weakness.
Be open: You may find it difficult to persuade them to join you for dinner,
a night out or even a quick coffee. Depression can be mentally draining
and being out of their comfort zone may trigger panic. Be patient, and
let them know the offer stands on a regular basis – they will join you when
the time is right for them.
Understand them: Depression can change a person's behaviour. It can
lead to people being irritable, snappy and what appears to be miserable.
But this may not be in their control, so do your best to be patient. Let them
know that you won't walk away from them and that you understand.
Learn about depression: Depression can be difficult to understand if
it's not something you have experience with. You may feel more helpful
in supporting your friend or loved one if you learn more about the condition
yourself. That way you can empathise with them and begin to understand
any triggers.
It is relevant to add here that the World Health Organization has
launched many other global health initiatives, including World Tuberculosis
Day, World Immunization Week, World Malaria Day, World No Tobacco
Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Hepatitis Day, World AIDS
Day and World Antibiotic Awareness Week. In 1953, the National Citizens'
Committee of the World Health Organization declared public health
to be vital to peace throughout the world. According to The New York
Times, the committee noted that it was "in our own interests to eliminate
the conditions that cause ill health, poverty and unrest, for these, in turn,
are the breeding grounds of communism."
In April 1963, then US President John F. Kennedy took on hunger. In
a message to mark the World Health Organization's 15th anniversary,
he said, "Let us dedicate World Health Day—April 7—to the proposition
that we will have a world where every man, woman and child shall have
enough to eat." Also in 1963, the World Health Organization tried to find
the first baby vaccinated against tuberculosis. He was vaccinated on July
1, 1921, in Paris, and the organization hoped "to demonstrate that a vaccinated
baby can grow into a healthy adult" even if surrounded by family
members who were sick.
"Mental pollution" was a new menace for those living in cities, one
that was a greater problem than air or water pollution, according to the
World Health Organization in 1966. It was the subject of a series of articles
crafted by the organization ahead of World Health Day; that year's
theme was "Man and His Cities." In 1977, the World Health Organization
marked World Health Day with a vaccination drive to immunize children
against six diseases: diphtheria, measles, polio, tetanus, tuberculosis
and whooping cough. Smoking was banned in 1987 at the World Health
Organization in Geneva, to mark World Health Day. At that time, nonsmokers
made up more than two-thirds of the 1,300 staffers at the
Geneva headquarters.