“Depression can be treated,” says the World Health Organization (WHO). “The first step is talking.” A message that the organization hopes will reach some 300 million people around the world battling this serious mental health disorder. On World Health Day (April 7, 2017) the goal this year is to encourage people to talk about depression, so that they can have an opportunity at getting the help that is desperately needed.
While WHO is normally associated with deadly virus outbreaks, such as HIV or Ebola, their focus goes far beyond infectious diseases. They have a hand promoting health in 150 countries. Untreated mental health conditions do not just affect the health of individuals, it has an impact on entire societies.
Depression is a chronic mental illness typified by a loss of interest and enjoyment, anhedonia and reduced energy preventing one’s ability to work. People living with untreated depression are at great risk of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. This often leads to addiction and increased depressive symptoms, such individuals then meet the criteria of having a co-occurring disorder—otherwise known as a “dual diagnosis.” Naturally, the use of substances to ease the symptoms of depression wreaks havoc on the human body, leading to several of other potentially fatal health conditions.
If such behaviors continue for a long period of time, depressives are at great risk of suicidal ideations. Many of which are brought to fruition. WHO reports that nearly 800,000 people die from suicide every year, and self-inflicted injury is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. What’s more, the prevalence of depression worldwide has risen by more than 18 percent between 2005 and 2015, becoming the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, according to WHO.
Talking About Depression
On the 10th of October last year, the World Health Organization launched a year-long campaign to encourage people around the globe to seek and get help for depression. To accomplish the goal, people affected by the disease need to be able to talk about it, provided; however, they feel that they can talk about it without the risk of being shamed by their peers. The stigma of mental illness is one the primary factors preventing individuals from seeking help. In order to help people seek the assistance they need, we all (society) need to exercise both compassion and empathy.
With that in mind, the only way to break the stigma of depression, is to better educate the general public about the science of mental illness. The “Depression: Let’s Talk” campaign hopes to achieve the goal of ensuring that:
- The general public is better informed about depression, its causes and possible consequences, including suicide, and what help is or can be available for prevention and treatment.
- People with depression seek help.
- Family, friends and colleagues of people living with depression are able to provide support.
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There Is No Shame In Mental Illness
On World Health Day, we hope that everyone will take a moment of their time to better inform yourself on the nature of mental illness. Think about who in your life may be battling with undiagnosed or untreated depression. Maybe you could reach out to them by phone or in person to see how they are doing, preferably in a way that does not pry or overreach the boundaries of your relationship with said person. You may be surprised just how important such a phone call might be, let them know that you are there if they need anything—express to your friend or loved one that they are not alone.
“The continuing stigma associated with mental illness was the reason why we decided to name our campaign Depression: let’s talk,” said Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. “For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment and recovery.”
On the other side, if you are personally experiencing symptoms of depression, now is a good time to proactively seek help. There is no cure for depression, but there are effective science-based methods of mitigating one’s symptoms and lessening the frequency of depressive episodes. This usually begins with treatment, finding a medication that works for you and continued cognitive behavioral therapy.
At Cottonwood Tucson, we specialize in the treatment of behavioral health conditions and co-occurring mental health disorders. Whether you are battling with depression, or a co-occurring disorder involving depression and addiction, we can help you begin the journey of recovery. Please reach out to us today, what better time than on World Health Day.