APRIL 7 of each year marks the celebration of World Health Day.
From its inception at the First Health Assembly in 1948 and since taking effect in 1950, the celebration has aimed to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization.
Over the past 50 years this has brought to light important health issues such as mental health, maternal and child care and climate change. The celebration is marked by activities which extend beyond the day itself and serves as an opportunity to focus worldwide attention on these important aspects of global health.
The theme of the 2017 World Health Day campaign is depression.
What is depression?
Depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks. In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following symptoms: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Depression is a common mental disorder that affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries.
• The risk of becoming depressed is increased by poverty, unemployment, life events such as the death of a loved one or a relationship break-up, physical illness and problems caused by alcohol and drug use.
• Depression causes mental anguish and can impact on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends.
• Untreated depression can prevent people from working and participating in family and community life.
• At worst, depression can lead to suicide.
• Depression can be effectively prevented and treated. Treatment usually involves either a talking therapy or antidepressant medication or a combination of these.
• Overcoming the stigma often associated with depression will lead to more people getting help.
• Talking with people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression.
Yet, depression can be prevented and treated. A better understanding of what depression is – and how it can be prevented and treated – will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition and lead to more people seeking help.
The overall goal of the one-year campaign, which actually began on October 10 2016, World Mental Health Day, is that more people with depression, in all countries, seek and get help.
More specifically, the World Health Organization aims to achieve the following:
• The general public be better informed about depression, its causes and possible consequences, including suicide and what help is or can be available for prevention and treatment;
• People with depression seek help; and
• Family, friends and colleagues of people living with depression are able to provide support.
If you think you might be suffering from depression, talk to your GP who will be able to provide advice and guidance. You can also find support online, check out www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2017/handouts-depression/en/.