Health/Sci-TechVolume 12 Issue # 18

Depression – a silent, creeping killer

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 safety. 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.