Every year, the 7th of April is celebrated as the World Health Day, an opportunity to draw worldwide attention to a subject of major importance to global health. With more than 300 million people today living with depression, it is now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. Suicide which often stems from depression, is the second leading cause of death among people 15-29 year old. There is indeed no better time than now to address this global issue that is a threat to young people worldwide.
Depression is an illness associated with changes in the brain chemistry. The World Health Organization defines it as a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration. WHO posits that low income countries like Nigeria invest less than 1% of their health budget on mental health care. This is not surprising when you consider the fact that in most African countries, depression still seems to be a grey area. A lot of people do not view it as a health concern, with many saying things like “people don’t get depressed in Nigeria”, attributing it to a temporary state one needs to just snap out of, or worse, attributing it to a spiritual manifestation.
In Asia, a continent that has the highest burden of mental illness - with India having the highest prevalence of depression and China coming second, there is an especially low concentration of psychiatrists. China has 2 psychiatrists to 100,000 persons while India has 1 psychiatrist to 300,000. With this seemingly casual attitude towards depression as an illness, it is no surprise that a lot of affected people either are not aware that they are depressed, or have nowhere to get help from, nobody to talk to. This makes it quite dangerous since unmanaged depression leads to poor quality of life and is a major risk factor for suicide.
Thankfully, people and organizations are slowly but increasingly beginning to recognize the need to address depression as a health condition. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group is now organizing regular campaigns to educate young people about the disease and providing support for the mentally ill. The Nigeria Suicide Prevention Initiative has launched suicide hotlines: 08062106493 and 08062106493, and the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi recently urged her people to beat depression on a radio talk show and saying "Suppression of depression is not good. Expression is always good. If depressed, share your feelings with others, it will make you feel better."
C4C urges all young people to be open to talking about mental illness and listening to other's mental challenges and to seek medical attention when needed. This will help lessen the stigma and improve treatment for the disease. Depression is not a spiritual problem. It is certainly not imaginary. It is a condition that needs help. Let's talk about it. Let's do something about it. Let's get help for it when necessary. Happy World health Day!