During the first meetings to establish the United Nations (UN) in 1945, diplomats agreed on the need to create a health organization to coordinate health affairs within the UN system. Thus, on April 7, 1948, all members of the UN signed a constitution officially forming the World Health Organization (WHO). Every year since, April 7 has been commemorated as World Health Day to celebrate the anniversary of the WHO, and spotlight a specific health topic to mobilize action on the issue. This year, the theme is depression, an illness the WHO defines as a mental disorder characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities.
Depression is a common disorder that affects people of all ages and in all countries. By WHO estimates, 300 million suffer from depression worldwide—nearly 4.5% of the global population. Furthermore, the number of people suffering from depression is on the rise: between 2005 and 2015, the number of people diagnosed with depression rose by 18%. A significant portion of those affected by depression are people living in low- and middle-income countries where conditions such as poverty, unemployment, and civil conflict often lead to the development of mental illness.
Despite its prevalence, there is a great deal of stigma surrounding depression which has, in turn, become a significant barrier for its treatment. Many choose to ignore their depression, viewing it as a sign of personal weakness, and refuse to seek help. The consequences of avoiding treatment can be devastating. When left ignored and untreated, depression can prevent individuals from carrying out basic daily tasks, negatively impact relationships with friends and family, and, at worst, can lead to suicide. Indeed, suicide is now the second leading cause of death among young people between 15 and 29 years old—a trend attributed in great part to mental illnesses like depression. On a macro-level, leaving depression untreated can have a significant economic impact: WHO studies have shown that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy more than $1 trillion each year.
Effectively addressing these mental health issues is an important yet under-discussed issue for all countries. At Grieboski Global Strategies (GGS), we are dedicated to helping nations establish strong societies and build growing economies. Investing in mental health is a crucial way to deal with these issues. According to the WHO, for every dollar spent on treatment for depression, countries see a $4 return in, “better health and ability to work.” Yet the average government budget allocates just 3% towards mental health issues—reaching as low as less than 1% in low-income nations.
With the right amount of investment and attention, depression can be treated. Usually, addressing depression involves speaking with a therapist, taking antidepressant medication, or a combination of both. Overcoming the stigma associated with depression allows individuals to take the first important step needed to get necessary help.
Thus, the core of the WHO campaign this year is to emphasize the value of speaking candidly about depression, summed up by their slogan: “Depression: let’s talk.” Creating an atmosphere for more open dialogue will help reduce the stigma and lead more people to treat their depression. At GGS, we are fully committed to helping bring the realities of depression to light, and stand in support of the WHO’s goal of creating a more open public dialogue on this issue. Communication is a vital step in raising awareness as well as encouraging people to seek the help they need.