Depression Is Now The Leading Cause of Illness and Disability Around The World
The World Health Organization (WHO) released a “wake-up call” this week, saying depression is now the leading cause of illness and disability around the world. In ten years (from 2005 to 2015) worldwide depression rates surged 18 percent, now affecting more than 300 million people globally. However, approximately half never receive the treatment they need due to a lack of support for mental health and fear of stigma.
“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 it deserves,” Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director-general, said in a statement from the U.N. agency’s Geneva headquarters.
The news comes as the WHO is in the middle of a mental health campaign aiming at the misconceptions and stigma surrounding depression called “Depression: Let’s Talk”.
“For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step toward treatment and recovery,” said Shekhar Saxena, director of the WHO’s mental health department.
Depression is arguably one of the most well-known mental illnesses, affecting up to 5 percent of the population over the age of 18. The illness can be debilitating on its own, but also increases the risk of several other major diseases and disorders such as diabetes and heart disease.
The WHO says many countries around the world do little to nothing to provide support for people with mental health issues, including depression. Even in wealthier nations, only half of people with depression ever receive treatment.
According to their estimates, government health budgets spend just 3 percent on average on mental health, with poorer nations spending less than 1 percent and rich nations contributing 5 percent on average.
“A better understanding of depression and how it can be treated … is just the beginning,” said Saxena. “What needs to follow is sustained scale-up of mental health services accessible to everyone, even the most remote populations.”