World Mental Health Day 2012 Message From Dr. Beverley Barnett, PAHO/WHO Guyana Country Office Representative
Every year, World Mental Health Day, an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) since 1992, is commemorated on 10 October. World Mental Health Day is a global campaign inviting everyone –from global leaders to the public in all countries - to focus on a mental health challenge with global impact. It provides an opportunity for everyone to recognize the challenges that individuals, families, and communities experience due to mental disorders; discuss these disorders more openly; and support investments in prevention and treatment services.
The theme for World Mental Health Day 2012 is “Depression: A Global Crisis” and it aims to encourage governments and civil society around the world to address depression as a widespread illness that affects individuals, their families, their peers, and their communities, and to recognize that it is a treatable condition.
Depression is a common mental disorder that presents with sad mood, loss of interest or pleasure, decreased energy, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, and poor concentration. Moreover, depression often comes with symptoms of anxiety. These problems can become chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual’s ability to take care of his or her everyday responsibilities. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Almost 1 million lives are lost yearly due to suicide, which translates to 3,000 suicide deaths every day. For every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end their lives (WHO, 2012). In Guyana, suicide prevention is a priority mental and public health issue.
Depression is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease and affects people in all communities across the world. Today, depression is estimated to affect 350 million people worldwide, and the World Mental Health Survey conducted in 17 countries found that on average about 1 in 20 people reported having an episode of depression in the previous year. Depressive disorders often start at a young age and the demand for curbing depression and other mental disorders is on the rise globally. The global burden of depression poses a substantial public health challenge, both at the social and economic levels as well as the clinical level, and there are several well- defined, evidence- based strategies that can effectively reduce this burden.
Economic analyses have indicated that treating depression in primary care is feasible, affordable, and cost-effective. Many prevention programs implemented across the lifespan have provided evidence on the reduction of elevated levels of depressive symptoms. Effective community approaches to prevent depression focus on several actions surrounding the strengthening of protective factors and the reduction of risk factors. Examples of strengthening protective actors include school-based programs targeting children and adolescents, as well as exercise programs for the elderly. Interventions for parents of children with behavioral problems include provision of information and training in behavioral child-rearing strategies, which may reduce parental depressive symptoms and improve outcomes in the children, regarding their cognitive, problem-solving and social skills. Suicide prevention involves not only prevention and effective treatment of depression, but also restriction in access to means for suicide.
On this World Mental Health Day 2012, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) emphasizes the importance of good mental health to prevent and alleviate pain and depression throughout the life-course in order to save lives, promote and protect health, and foster well-being. Regular physical activity, a healthy diet, relaxation techniques, healthy sleeping habits, and avoidance of stress, drug use, and the harmful use of alcohol, are all important in the maintenance of mental health.
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (WHO, 1948). Let us not neglect our mental health; let us educate ourselves about depression and other mental disorders, take measures to maintain our mental health, and support those who are suffering from mental disorders.