With 30 Crore Sufferers, Depression Is World’s #1 Cause of Illness

2018 will be the geopolitical equivalent of the 2008 financial meltdown.

More than 300 million people currently live with depression, making it the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, according to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The UN agency released the estimates ahead of World Health Day on 7 April. Xinhua news agency quoted a WHO news release as saying:

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 that it deserves.

With the number of people with depression increasing by over 18 percent from 2005 to 2015, the WHO is holding a year-long campaign, titled Depression: Let's Talk – with the aim to encourage people living with depression to seek help.

A lack of support for people living with mental disorders, coupled with the stigma surrounding mental health, keep many from seeking treatment.

Depression is an important risk factor for suicide. It claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year, says the report.

Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO, said:

The continuing stigma associated with mental illness was the reason why we decided to name our campaign Depression: Let’s Talk. For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment and recovery.

The problem also calls for increased investment in the field of mental health. In many countries, there is no, or very little, support available for people with mental health disorders. Even in high-income countries, nearly 50 percent of people with depression do not get treatment.

On average, only three percent of the government’s health budget is allocated to mental health – varying from less than one percent in low-income countries to five percent in high-income countries, says the report.

(With inputs from IANS)

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