World Health Day gets everyone talking about depression

Lao People’s Democratic Republic World Health Day celebration gets an early start this year. The Ministry of Health and WHO staff gathered to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization, and learn more about this year’s theme which is depression: #LetsTalk.

Dr Bounkong Syhavong, Minister to the Ministry of Health spoke at the celebration of the World Health Day; he said “Depression can affect anyone, people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. According to new estimates on depression released by the World Health Organization, the number of people living with depression has increased by more than 18 per cent between 2005 and 2015.”

This is of particular concern to many health practitioners, and the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015 adopted the promotion of mental health and well-being to the Sustainable Development Goal Agenda, within the health goals.

This is in line with WHO definition of health “where physical, mental and social well-being is assured.” SDG 3.4 requests that countries: By 2030, reduce by one-third premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.

Depression is an illness characterized 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. People with depression normally have several of the following symptoms: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Dr Juliet Fleischl, WHO Representative to Lao PDR said “Every 40 seconds, someone, somewhere in the world, dies by suicide. Suicides are preventable. It is acceptable to talk about suicide and listen with an open mind as it often helps people feel understood. Be aware of persistent negative thoughts and self-criticism and try to replace them with positive thoughts – and do seek professional help. Talking with people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression.”

Suicide is a serious public health problem. Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year, an estimate of 500 suicides per day. It is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29-year olds.

To date, only a few countries have included suicide prevention among their health priorities and only 28 countries reported having a national suicide prevention strategy. Raising community awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide.

Health workers need to understand depression, how it can be prevented and treated. The support of family, friends and caregivers will facilitate recovery from depression. You can help those suffering from depression simply by talking or listening to them. Stay connected with your friends and family, keep up with activities that you have always enjoyed and exercise regularly if you can, even if it is just a short walk.

If you are living with someone with depression, make it clear that you want to help, listen without judgement, and offer support. You should encourage them to seek professional help when available by offering to accompany them to appointments. When medication is prescribed, remind them to take it as prescribed. Be patient; it usually takes a few weeks to feel better.

There is a lot that can be done to prevent and treat depression, with talking therapies and antidepressant medication or a combination of both. Seek advice from your health-care provider.

On World Health Day, we would like to remind individuals that anyone can play a critical role in suicide prevention. #Depression #LetsTalk #GetHelp encourages us to get everyone talking to break down taboo on depression.

Dr Juliet Fleischl, WHO Representative with Dr Bounkong Syhavong, Minister to the Ministry of Health, Lao People’s Democratic Republic promoting the World Health Day’s theme on Depression.
The Ministry of Health and WHO staff celebrated World Health Day 2017 social media campaign hopes to get everyone talking about depression.
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