News / Africa

Many Millions Suffer from Depression

World Health Organization calls for an end to stigma against those with mental disorders. Credit: WHO
World Health Organization calls for an end to stigma against those with mental disorders. Credit: WHO

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Wednesday (October 10th) is World Mental Health Day. The World Health Organization is using the occasion to call for an end to stigma against those who suffer from depression and other mental disorders.


Dr. Shekhar Saxena said more than 350 million people around the world suffer from depression.

“When we say depression, we are talking about the mental disorder, which is very specific and is much beyond the usual feelings of sadness that everybody gets once in a while.”

Saxena is director of the WHO’s Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse. 

“The disorder of depression is characterized by sustained sadness for two weeks or more and also interference with day-to-day work or other everyday responsibilities. So it’s actually a disease than just an emotional state,” Saxena said.

And there are many causes.

“There are biological causes – change in the neurotransmitters in the brain – but also personality and environmental factors, which all give rise to what we then see – the syndrome of depression,” he said.

Dr. Saxena said trained medical professionals should be able to diagnose depression not only by a physical examination, but by asking the right questions. Those questions center on a person’s emotional state. Are there long periods of sadness or crying? Does a person have low self-worth, a feeling that life has no meaning or suicidal thoughts?

The World Health organization estimates one million people commit suicide every year with a “large proportion having experienced depression.” It also says up to one in five women, who give birth, suffer from post-partum depression.

A recent WHO-supported study reported that about 5 percent of the people in any given community had depression during the past year.

“Depression is a global problem, and all regions of the world have around the same figures of depression. In fact, it’s a myth that depression is very common amongst developed countries, and is perhaps not seen in developing countries. That’s completely false. And poor countries and poor societies, including in Africa, are actually particularly pre-disposed to depression because of a very high level of stress, as well as other physical conditions, like HIV/AIDS, like chronic diseases and other social and economic factors,” Saxena said.

While there are many causes, Saxena said there are also many treatments, including inexpensive medication. There is also therapy and other psychological and social interventions.

The World Health Organization warns stigma is a huge problem that prevents many people from seeking help.

“It’s very important that everybody recognizes depression as a condition and looks out for it amongst oneself, one’s friends and family. And support them to take treatment and to disclose that one can be suffering from this problem. Stigma can be removed by proper knowledge and proper attitude,” he said.

The WHO’s Mental Health Gap Action Program trains health workers in low-income countries to recognize mental disorders and provide treatment.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid