|World Mental Health Day: Depression, the Most Common Mental Disorder|
Depression affects 350 million people in the world. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 5% of the adult population has depression, but six of out of every ten do not receive treatment
Washington, D.C., 9 October 2012 (PAHO/WHO).- Depression affects more people than any other mental disorder and is also one of the world’s leading causes of disability. Although it is a treatable disease, six out of every ten people who have depression in Latin America and the Caribbean do not seek or do not receive the treatment they need.
On World Mental Health Day, which is held annually on the 10th of October, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) joins with the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) to increase awareness about this disorder that affects more than 350 million people of all ages around the world.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, depression affects 5% of the adult population. “This is a disorder that can strike anyone at some point in their life, and for which they need to receive psychological and social care and support,” according to the PAHO/WHO Principal Adviser on Mental Health, Jorge Rodriguez.
In addition to influencing the ill person, depression also affects their family and community around them. In the worst cases, it can lead to suicide. Each year, almost 1 million people kill themselves in the world, of which around 63,000 are in the Americas. “In human terms, it represents suffering and in economic terms it involves considerable costs to families and to governments,” said Rodriguez.
“Depression: A Global Crisis” is the theme chosen for this year, to advocate for recognizing the disease and addressing it. Because of the stigma suffered by people with depression, many sufferers hide it or do not talk about it and even avoid treatment. WHO prepared a campaign that includes pamphlets and a video on “the black dog of depression,” to call attention to this public health problem.
Between 60% and 65% of ill people do not receive care. The lack of appropriate services; of trained health professionals, especially in primary care; and the social stigma associated with mental disorders are some of the barriers to access to appropriate care, in addition to the need for boosting capacity for the identification and early treatment of depression. In the region, it is calculated that less than 2% of the health budget is allocated to mental health, and of this, 67% is spent on mental hospitals.
Depression is more common in women than in men. Between two and four of every ten mothers in developing countries suffer from depression during pregnancy or after childbirth.
This disease has a good prognosis if it is treated in time and appropriately. Depression can be mild, moderate, or severe, and is caused by a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors. However, “we must abandon the idea that all depression needs pharmaceutical treatment. Mild and even some moderate cases can be resolved, basically, with social and family support, brief psychotherapy, or other types of psychosocial interventions that can be provided by primary health care physicians or by community organizations that provide support for people,” explained Rodriguez.
From 16 to 18 October of this year, PAHO will sponsor a Regional Mental Health Conference in Panama, where a variety subjects will be discussed, including the assessment of mental health systems in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the first draft of the Global Plan of Action on Mental Health that will be presented at the World Health Assembly in 2013. Participants will include professionals in the field of mental health and other stakeholders from various countries, including representatives from academic institutions, PAHO/WHO collaborating centers, nongovernmental organizations, and representatives from consumer and family member movements.
The World Federation for Mental Health initiated World Mental Health Day in 1992, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2012.
PAHO celebrates its 110th anniversary this year and is the world's oldest international public health organization. It works with all the countries of the hemisphere to improve the health and quality of life of the peoples of the Americas and serves as the WHO Regional Office for the Americas.
Mental health and depression in numbers
Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization