World Health Day
On Friday 7th of April, the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrated its 67th World Health Day. In 1948 it was incepted at the First Health Assembly and taking effect since 1950. The celebration of this day aims to raise awareness of a specific health theme and to highlight a priority area of concern and the anniversary of the founding of the WHO.
Moreover, this day that always stands for a specific health issue, brought light to a big number of health issues such as mental health, maternal and child care and climate change, over the years. The event is marked by activities which extend beyond the day itself and serves as an opportunity to focus on important global health issues.
This year’s World Health Day campaign is about a disease that affects people from all ages, walks of life and in all countries. According to a Global Health Estimates Report by WHO, about 322 million people, 4,4% of the world’s population suffers from this disease. It considerably affects the lives of the affected and can lead to suicide, which is the second leading death cause among 15-29 year olds. The disease is called depression.
But this year’s World Health Day does not only raise awareness about depressive disorders but also on anxiety disorders and common mental health disorders. 264 million people, 3,6% of the world’s population are impaired by anxiety disorders.
Depression presents a lot of symptoms: sadness, loss of interest and pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness and poor concentration. Depression can either be a long lasting or a recurrent disease. It impairs a person’s ability to function properly at work, at school or to cope with everyday life.
Feelings of anxiety and fear, including generalised anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are summarized under the term anxiety disorder. Nevertheless these symptoms, just mentioned are not to mix up with occasionaly occuring feelings of sadness, stress and fear that everyone experiences at some point in his or her life.
Common mental health disorders like this are often triggerd by unemployment, poverty, life events, physical illness, alcohol and drug abuse. The number of mental health disorders has risen in low income countries and is more common among women than men. In Luxembourg 5%, Belgium 4,8% and in Germany 5,1% of the population are depressive.
The World Health Organization focuses on this year’s World Health Day on depression and wants to open up dialogues and tackle the stigma associated with this highly disabling condition. Even though it is a very common disease it is still under-recognized and undertreated. “Although depression can be treated and prevented, at least 75% of all people suffering from major depression do not receive adequate treatment,” said WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab.
In Europe 40 million people live with a depressive disorder. The WHO campaign “Depression: Let’s talk!” aims to inform the general public about the consequences and mangement of depression and how to provide support to people suffering from depression. Talking about depression is an important first step in the fight against it but often the affected avoid or delay treatment because they fear reactions of prejudice and discrimination. 3 out of 4 people do not receive the appropriate help they need. The overall goal of the WHO and the World Health Day campain is to motivate people with a mental healt disorder to seek and get help.