According to the World Health Organisation, the number of people suffering from depression has increased by over 18% between the year 2005 and 2015. Depression is the largest cause of disability worldwide. There can be several causes for depression. Ahead of World Health Day 2017, we discuss some pertinent questions regarding depression with Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Dept. of Mental Health, WHO.
DoctorNDTV: How does one spot the early signs of depression?
Dr Shekhar Saxena: Depression is a common mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that people normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for 14 days or longer. In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following: 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.
DoctorNDTV: What are the risks for depression?
Dr Shekhar Saxena: Poverty, discrimination, joblessness and violence are important risk factors for depression. use of alcohol and drugs also play a role. People with chronic and disabling diseases are also more prone for depression.
DoctorNDTV: How can I help someone who is depressed?
Dr Shekhar Saxena: The first step is to talk! Talking to a trusted person can be the beginning of help-seeking and help-giving. Non-judgmental listening can itself help, but people with moderate or severe depression will need professional help from a health care facility.
DoctorNDTV: Will people isolate me if they know I am depressed?
Dr Shekhar Saxena: Unfortunately, stigma against mental disorders including depression still remains in most societies. However, attitudes about people with these conditions are changing. We believe change will be faster if we begin talking about them. We need to bring about a chnage and reach out to people.
DoctorNDTV: Is it true that women are more likely to be depressed and if so, why?
Dr Shekhar Saxena: Women are more likely to have depression than men. The reasons are not entirely known, but the stresses that women undergo, including the responsibilities of child bearing and care, families and also of jobs. Women are also more often victims of violence which is a key factor for depression. Lastly, women live longer and depression is more common in the elderly.
(Dr Shekhar Saxena is the Director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland)