With depression being the biggest cause of suicides, and the highest cause of death among 15-29-year olds in Southeast Asia, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday called for scaling up of the quality and reach of mental health services to tackle depression.
Depression affects nearly 86 million people in WHO Southeast Asia Region and if left untreated, in its most severe form can lead to suicide.
The global health organisation said there is a need for individuals, communities and countries to talk more openly about depression and scale up the quality and reach of mental health services to prevent untold hardships and precious lives being cut short by depression, a condition that can be easily treated.
“Depression is an issue that needs to be heard. It can affect anyone at any stage of life, impacting relationships, work and social interactions, and impeding our ability to live life to its fullest. Depression can be managed and overcome,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO Southeast Asia, in a statement.
April 7 every year is marked as World Health Day and depression has been set as the theme for 2017. WHO wants to lay emphasis on depression because it involves persistent sadness or loss of interest or pleasure in things normally enjoyed.
According to WHO, though depression affects all demographic groups, it is more commonly experienced by adolescents and young adults, women of childbearing age (particularly following childbirth), and adults over the age of 60.
Stating that though efforts have been made by countries in the region, Singh said that mental health has been among the top 10 health priorities in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka in recent years.
Eight of the 11-member countries have mental health policies or plans. She complimented India for its recent legislation that decriminalises suicide and seeks to provide health care and services for persons with mental health conditions.
Singh added that depression-related health services across the region must be made more accessible and of higher quality, and this is possible even in low- and middle-income settings.
Medical experts have also said that with the rise in sedentary lifestyle among youngsters, infertility is also becoming a major reason for depression. They said depression is also leading to disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
“It is important to diagnose the symptoms that hinder conception. If a person is experiencing tearfulness, not looking forward to things as much as they used to, have issues with sleeping and/or eating, are not enjoying activities like one did in the past, and are feeling irritable, it is possible that the person is depressed. Women with increased stress hormones are less likely than others to get pregnant.” said Jyoti Gupta, IVF Expert at city based Indira IVF Hospital.
Talking about the symptoms of depression, Samir Parikh, Director Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences at Fortis Healthcare, said that symptoms could be accompanied by significant weight loss, decrease or increase in appetite, sleep disturbances, low energy levels and fatigue.
“A depressed individual might experience feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt, with a difficulty in concentration, difficulty in decision-making, and recurrent thoughts of death,” said Parikh.