October 10, 2012 marks the 20th
anniversary of the World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to programs aimed to create awareness regarding mental health disorders. The event was first founded in 1992 by
Richard Hunter, an advocate of global mental health.
The theme for this year's mental health day, as chosen by the World Federation for Mental Health, is "Depression: A Global Crisis". Over 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression; therefore this
year's theme would direct attention of the general public towards this growing problem.
Diseases like those affecting the heart, or bones and muscles are physical, in which the diagnosis and treatment are pretty straightforward. However, mental problems like depression are more difficult to detect and often go unnoticed and untreated, especially in the developing countries.
Depression results in reduced productivity. The person loses interest in everything, has feelings of guilt or low self-worth, decreased energy, disturbed sleep or appetite and poor concentration. Severe cases can result in suicide and sometimes, homicide followed by suicide.
Statistics suggest that depression will be the second most common cause of disability in the world by 2020 and the largest contributor to disease burden by 2030. Depression more commonly affects women. Unfortunately, depression in women could also affect the upbringing of children.
Depression has been associated with economic crisis. Unemployment has led to a high incidence of suicide due to depression. Screening for depression and providing active support during financially difficult times have been recommended.
Depression is a treatable condition; it is treated with psychosocial support, psychotherapy like cognitive behavior therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy or problem-solving treatment, and antidepressant medications. Self help through books and internet-based programs have also been shown to reduce depression. However, very few people receive treatment, and many people receive inadequate treatment.
Basic lifestyle changes could help to reduce at least some symptoms of depression. These include following an exercise routine, eating a balanced diet, adopting simple relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing, maintaining healthy sleep habits, avoiding stress, reducing work hours and having a good network of family and friends.
The theme of this year's Mental Health Day urges us to ponder over and implement measures to deal with the increasing problem of depression at an individual, organizational and national level.