world health day depression

World Health Organization Urges Community to Talk About Depression

Observed annually on April 7, World Health Day, sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), focuses on global health awareness as well as providing the opportunity to mobilize action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world. The theme this year is depression.

According to WHO, 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression and it is the leading cause of disability. Although the day brings global awareness, Debra Iversen, director of behavioral health at Texas Health Seay Behavioral Health Center wants to remind everyone that resources are available beyond World Health Day.

“Of importance to note is that the Behavioral Health facilities at Texas Health Resources offer free comprehensive assessments, which include depression screening, every day of the year.”

Depression screening is effective in linking at-risk individuals with treatment options. Results from a 2009 independent study by the University of Connecticut showed that 55 percent of participants who completed an online depression screening sought depression treatment within three months of the screening.

Iversen indicates that once-a-year screening may not be enough, though.

“It is wonderful that we raise awareness nationwide on an annual basis, however depression screening should take place year-round on a variety of populations,” she says. “In fact, the US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recommended that all people 18 years of age and older should be screened at the primary care level, as well as screening all pregnant and postpartum women, regardless of risk factors.”

Depression is a treatable mental health disorder that causes persistent sadness and loss of interest. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Poor concentration
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hopelessness or guilt
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and therefore warrants a thorough and targeted depression assessment before those thoughts turn into actions.

“Suicidal feelings can become acute and unbearable, and patients often do not share these feelings with others,” Iversen says. “Family members and friends can help by being in tune to signs in individuals who become isolative, anxious, withdrawn or exhibit dramatic changes in mood.”

Iversen added that if you suspect any friends or family members may be suicidal, it’s important to ask them about their feelings and to try to get them the help they need. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, up to 80 percent of those treated for depression show an improvement in their symptoms generally within four to six weeks after beginning treatment.

Depression is a very common mental disorder, affecting more than 350 million people globally, and an estimated one in 10 U.S. adults report depression. Educating yourself on the signs, symptoms and plan of action for someone dealing with depression can be a life-saving lesson.

“The most important thing we can all do for one another is know each other and ask after the welfare of each other,” Iversen says. Don’t let changes in behavior go unattended. Ask your relative, co-worker or friend how they are doing and if they need assistance. Be curious and be a good listener. Most importantly, seek the assistance of a professional.”

There are currently 15 Texas Health behavioral health locations throughout the greater DFW Metroplex that provide free assessments. To learn more about the facilities near you, visit TexasHealth.org/Behavioral-Health or call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355).

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