Dan Parton looks to the future profile of depression following World Mental Health Day:
Yesterday [October 10] was World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme was ‘Depression: A Global Crisis’. Across the world there will be events to highlight the issues surrounding depression – and other mental health problems – and celebrate good practice. Despite progress in tackling stigma in recent years, days like this are still much-needed.
To coincide with World Mental Health Day, which is organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), various reports and surveys will be published and a number of these will probably make national news headlines. No doubt some TV and radio programmes will also do special features on World Mental Health Day and depression.
All of this is positive because it draws attention to mental health issues, which are still often neglected by the media. This will help to raise awareness and, perhaps in a small way, break down the stigma that is still associated with mental health problems and depression in particular.
While depression is talked about more than ever before in the media and in public – for example, various celebrities have said they have experienced it – sufferers can still stigmatised in the UK, albeit, in many cases, casually. All too often, depression is still dismissed as people being ‘weak’ and that those who experience it should just ‘pull themselves together and get on with it’. There can also be a perception that it is just someone feeling a bit down for a few days.
But as anyone who has experienced depression, or worked with people with depression, knows, all that is far from the truth. It can be all-consuming and debilitating and recovery can take a long time. It can be fatal. And, when someone is depressed, they need help – be it through drug treatments or talking therapies – it is not something that gets better on its own.
So, World Mental Health Day’s focus on depression is much needed. While everybody in the UK has heard about depression, many still do not know what it really is. This has to change, and highlighting it, through special days, is a good way to raise awareness.
Depression affects more than 350 million people of all ages, and is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease, according to the WHO. It affects people in all communities, of all backgrounds, regardless of material wealth and success.
We have to remember this and remind everyone that people with depression require understanding and help, not castigation and marginalisation. Ensuring people know the facts about depression could make a major contribution to improving things for the future.