‘Let’s Talk’, WHO says, as depression rates rise 18% in a decade

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Depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday, with more than 300 million people suffering.

Rates of depression have risen by more than 18 per cent since 2005, but a lack of support for the mental health combined with a common fear of stigma means many do not get the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives.

“These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency it deserves,” Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director-general, said in a statement from the U.N. agency’s Geneva headquarters.

The WHO is running a mental health campaign to tackle stigma and misconceptions called “Depression: Let’s Talk.”

“For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment and recovery,” said Shekhar Saxena, director of the WHO’s mental health department.

Depression is a common mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest and lack of ability in everyday activities and work. It affects around 322 million people worldwide.

Depression also increases the risk of several major diseases and disorders including addiction, suicidal behaviour, diabetes and heart disease, which are themselves among the world’s biggest killers.

WHO expressed concern that in many countries there is little or no support for people with mental health disorders, and said only around half of people with depression get treatment in wealthier nations.

On average just 3 per cent of government health budgets is spent on mental health, varying from less than 1 per cent in poor countries to 5 per cent in rich ones, according to the WHO.

“A better understanding of depression and how it can be treated … is just the beginning,” said Saxena. “What needs to follow is sustained scale-up of mental health services accessible to everyone, even the most remote populations.”


Where to get help

Kids Help Phone – 1-800-668-6868 (Phone), Live Chat (online chat counselling) – visit www.kidshelpphone.ca

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre

If you’re worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them, says the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention. Here are some warning signs:

  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Purposelessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Feeling trapped.
  • Hopelessness and helplessness.
  • Withdrawal.
  • Anger.
  • Recklessness.
  • Mood changes.

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‘Let’s Talk’, WHO says, as depression rates rise 18% in a decade

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