On the 7th of April of every year the World Health Organisation (WHO) sponsors and promotes global awareness of a specific health issue and has been successfully doing so for the past 67 years. This special day also serves to commemorate the day this incredibly influential organisation was founded and to celebrate the success of their efforts since they began promoting well-being, preventative care and health in 1950.
The theme surrounding this day varies every year, from diabetes (2016), to food safety (2015) to healthy ageing (2012). This year, the organisation has chosen to shine light on one of the more taboo areas of health care – depression.
WHO characterises depression as “a persistent loss of interest in activities that one normally enjoys, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.” In addition, common symptoms also include: 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.
“Depression: Let’s talk” is this year’s slogan and all efforts are being placed towards promoting action surrounding depression awareness. WHO has chosen to focus on mental health this year because it is a condition that undoubtedly affects people of all ages, all over the world and of all walks of life. The extreme detriments caused by depression are very real and affect not only the person diagnosed, but also his/her friends and family. The World Health Organisation also explains that depression can have a grave impact on larger groups of people including whole communities, workplaces and the health care system in general.
The main objective of this year’s World Health Day is to promote an open dialogue about the illness in order to break down barriers, prejudice and the stigma associated to depression. It is important that communities come together to better understand diagnosis and treatment. Depression is not a choice and promoting education can help recovery time and prevent the continued increase of global suicide rates; now the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29 year olds.
The campaign has been on-going for an entire year and has been comprised of not only providing marketing materials and readings in several languages but also participating in events around the world. WHO urges those interested in getting involved to organise an activity – be it large or small in order to actively help break down the stigma surrounding depression.
This is a global issue as risk for depression is increased by poverty and unemployment and therefore it is truly not only a ‘first-world problem’. “Depression causes mental anguish and can impact on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends.” – WHO
The most important objective of this year’s World Health Day is to educate as many people as possible and preach that depression can be effectively prevented and treated; usually involving therapy, medication or both. Undiagnosed and untreated people with depression can be hindered in such a way that prevents them from participating in family, community and work. “Talking with people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression.” – WHO
To learn more about “Depression: Let’s Talk” World Health Day and how to get involved WHO invites you to download their tool kit and starting acting now!