WHO Highlights Depression At World Health Day Celebration

By Mafanta Kromah

Liberia on today April 7, 201, joins the rest of the world in celebrating World Health Day with the theme: “Depression, Let’s Talk” to draw attention to the global burden of this common mental disorder.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism in Monrovia, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said three hundred twenty-two million people around the world are affected by depression as it is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease in the African region.

“We are all at risk: it effects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. Stigma and fear of socialization are significant barriers to seeking help; there’s an urgent need to prevent and treat those affected by this serious and complex mental health condition,” he stressed.

Moeti noted that early recognition of the symptoms is key to preventing depression from becoming a chronic illness.

He called on countries to support mental health program by allocating adequate human and financial resources to respond to growing burden.

He noted that individuals, families and communities can take steps to help prevent depression by avoiding stressful situation, alcohol abuse and drug use.

WHO defines depression as an illness characterized by persistent sadness, loss of interest and ability to perform daily activities for a period of over two weeks.

He noted that depression can also lead to suicide, which is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 year-olds globally as well as varies by age, peaking in older adults aged 55-74 years, but also occurring in children and adolescents. If left untreated, depression can be recurrent, long-lasting and debilitating.

He maintained that it impairs an individual’s ability to copy with daily activities, and can have devastating consequences for relationships with families and friends.

The African region has a critical shortage of qualified professionals for mental health, with just one psychiatrist per one million people and a similar number of psychologists.

The mental health workforce of psychiatric nurses, occupational therapist and social workers is woefully inadequate.