WHO urges public to break mental health stigma as depression rates rise

MANILA-- The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday called on the public to end mental health stigma by speaking out about depression.

In a press conference at the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) in Manila, the organization's regional director Dr. Shin Young-soo said depression is the leading contributor to disability worldwide.

Shin cited recent WHO statistics revealing more than 300 million people currently living with depression, or an 18-percent increase between 2005 and 2015.

Shin said in the Western Pacific region, about one in every 15 people suffer from depression or anxiety.

In this region, the Western Pacific, an estimated 66 million people suffer from depression. And another 55 million people suffer from another common mental disorder, anxiety, he said.

Shin said talking about depression could help break down the stigma surrounding mental health as it encourages more people to seek help.

It (depression) is treatable and manageable. And talking can be the first step toward recovery, he said.

Depression does not discriminate. Anyone can be affected... Please, talk to your loved ones today and ask them if they are okay. A simple conversation can change, and even save a life.

For her part, Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial said the biggest threat posed by depression is suicide, which is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds.

All people undergo depression at some point in their lives. If not properly addressed, it may lead to suicide that may eventually lead to death, Ubial said.

The health chief highlighted the role of two-way communication as an effective strategy and response to address depression.

With better understanding of what depression is and how to effectively respond to it, the stigma attached to it is certainly reduced and it encourages more people to come forward and seek appropriate medical treatment, she said.

Dr. Susan Mercado, WHO WPRO director for Non-Communicable Diseases and Health through the Life-Course, said it is a social responsibility to talk and listen to people suffering from depression.

It is a social responsibility that we listen to each other. If someone says, 'I'm sad' or 'My life has no purpose', don't judge them. This is a very real call for help... Engage them into conversation so it will not progress, Mercado said.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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