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World Health Day 2017: Depression and Anxiety on rise in Pakistan

World Health Day 2017: Depression and Anxiety on rise in Pakistan

Depression Treatment is the focus of World Health Day 2017

Depression, the leading cause of disability worldwide, is the focus of 2017 World Health Day and the theme of this year is “depression – let’s talk”.

Depression affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. It causes mental anguish and impacts on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks. At worst, depression can lead to suicide, now the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-old people.

Pakistan is one of thoe vulnerable countries where stress, anxiety and depression are at highest level. Having 200 million population, one out of three are suffering from these curable diseases, according to Dr Iqbal Afridi, the President of Pakistan Psychiatric Society and the Head of Department of Psychiatry at Jinnah Post Medical Complex.

Latest statistics on Depression worldwide

Depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide (an increase of more than 18 per cent between 2005 and 2015) and is the single leading cause of disability around the world. And while the social cost is incalculable, the economic costs for individuals, communities and nations is estimated to be more than US$ 1 trillion globally according to WHO.

322 million people, or about 4.4% of the global population, were suffering from depression in 2015 according to the latest statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO). The incidence was higher amongst women (5.1%) than men (3.6%), and older people were more susceptible than young people and children.

Rising Depression rate in Pakistan

The number of people with anxiety and depressive disorders in Pakistan stands at 34 per cent, according to a 2005-2006 Aga Khan University study.

A news report published in Express Tribune claims that depression affects 44% of the entire population in Pakistan. Its prevalence is higher in women at 57.5% and 25% in men. In Pakistan, 50 million people are  suffering from common mental disorders, reports says.

Another disturbing fact is that there are only 750 trained psychiatrists in Pakistan which means there is one psychiatrist for every 10,000 patients suffering mental disorders and one child psychiatrist for four million children suffering from mental health issues. Pakistan has four major psychiatric hospitals for the entire population.

Depression is also a major contributor to suicide deaths which number close to 800000 per year, means one suicide every forty seconds. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged between 15 to 29 years globally.

 The alarming situation in Pakistan calls for immediate solutions and understanding of the illness.

What causes depression?

Depression is the result of a multitude of factors including genetic, environment, personality, upbringing, social etc. In addition, disproportionately high poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, lack of health and education facilities, poor housing, poor living conditions, pollution, no regulation of food, medicines, hospitals, poor justice system just intensify the situation further.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says depression is often caused by a combination of physical, psychological, and social factors. These are:

  • A family history of depression
  • Poor nutrition
  • Having chronic physical illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, cancers, thyroid disorders and Parkinson disease
  • Repeated exposure to extreme stressors like war, conflict or natural disasters
  • Use of licit and illicit drugs
  • Rapid change in life situations like marriage, childbirth, loss of job or partner
  • Experiencing adversity and abuse in childhood like early loss of parent(s) or non-responsive and non-stimulating parenting
  • Long-term difficulties like financial problems, belonging to a minority group, and marital difficulties

How to deal with Depression?

“Despite common misperceptions, depression is not a sign of weakness but stigma and discrimination are preventing people from seeking the care they need” says Dr. Fikri, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.

Effective treatment is available through talking therapies and antidepressant medications, or a combination of both. Dr Fikri underscored that depression is treatable.

In many countries, there is little or no support available for people with mental health disorders. Even in high-income countries, nearly 50% of people with depression do not get treatment.

Governments must invest in Health and improve mental health services

Investment in mental health makes financial and social sense, and failure to act is costly. If untreated, depression can be debilitating and even lead to suicide, which is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year olds.

“Governments can improve mental health services, families and communities can provide social support, civil society groups can raise awareness, and individuals can seek help and treatment and talk to others about how they feel,” Dr Fikri said.

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