Depression identified as major health risk to all

April 10, 2017 4:51 pm
Silhouette of downcast female/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 10 – Two in three people are unaware that they are suffering from depression.

The mental health disorder which is treatable is a growing public health concern and particularly alarming is the prevalence of depression and risk of suicide in this cohort.

In an interview with Capital FM News, psychiatrist and mental health advocate Chitayi Murabula said cases of depression are on the rise globally with the numbers going up by 18pc between 2005 and now.

Depression is an illness characterised 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.

It can happen to anybody, causing mental anguish and impacts on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends and the ability to earn a living.

“Lack of sleep, energy, appetite, feeling guilty as well as suicidal thoughts make up some of the symptoms to look out for when depressed,” noted Dr Murabula.

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide accounting 10 per cent of all years lived with disability globally and is a major contributor to the overall Global burden of disease (4.3pc of the global burden of disease).

According to the latest estimates from World Health Organization (WHO), more than 300 million people globally are now living with depression.

At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people between the ages of 15-29.

“It’s worth noting that 75pc of the 800,000 people who die annually as a result of suicide come from lower and middle income countries,” said Dr Murabula.

This begs the question, why the high numbers in developing countries?

The key barriers to effective care include; lack of resources, lack of trained health-care providers, and social stigma associated with mental disorders

There is need to improve on mental health services. Currently there are only 88 psychiatrists the ratio standing at 1:420,000.

“This compared to the developed countries that have 120 psychiatrists serving the same number of population, indicates that the journey to address mental disorders is far from being achieved,” explained Dr Murabula.

The causes that lead to depression are in two categories i.e. Organic and Psychological causes.

Organic causes include illnesses, medication e.g. epilepsy, chronic conditions-heart conditions, diabetes, stroke etc.

While psychological causes include adversity in childhood i.e. physical/sexual abuse, war, losing a parent and adversity in adulthood-unemployment/loss of job, property, and imprisonment, marital and financial problems.

Kenyans on Friday joined the rest of the world in marking the international world health day celebrated annually on April 7.

Under the theme “Depression: Let’s talk”, the WHO stated that depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, with recently released estimates indicating that more than 300 million people are now living with depression.

In Kenya, WHO estimates that at least two million people (4.4 per cent) suffer from depression as the country is ranked 6th with the highest number of depression cases among African countries.

“These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan.

In many countries, the WHO said, there is no, or very little, support available for people with mental health disorders.

“Nearly 50 per cent of people with depression both in developed and under developed countries do not get treatment. On average, just 3 per cent of government health budgets is invested in mental health, varying from less than 1 per cent in low-income countries to 5 per cent in high-income countries,” stated the WHO.

The health agency also called on governments to increase investment on treating depression.

The ministry of health has in the meantime said it is implementing the Kenya Mental Health Policy (2015-2030) that contains strategies and priority actions focused on community approaches aimed at preventing depression.

The interventions will focus on several actions surrounding the strengthening of protective factors and the reduction of risk factors across the lifespan.

These include collaboration with relevant stakeholders in the strengthening of protective factors including school-based programs targeting cognitive, problem-solving and social skills of children and adolescents.

Also the implementation will have priority actions targeting interventions for; maternal mental health, older persons, persons emerging from conflicts and traumatic life situations at all levels of healthcare.

“The mental health policy implementation will strategically invest in mental health systems so as to address the key barriers to access to management of mental health problems,” said the Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu.

“I call upon all stakeholders to partner with us in the implementation of Kenya Mental health policy for the attainment of highest standard of mental health. These strategic actions and investments will go a long way in achieving the targets of Vision 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals.”


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