This year’s World Health Day carries a particular significance for me and for many others. The theme, “Depression: Let’s Talk,” shines a light upon a problem that oftentimes remains hidden in a dark corner of our minds, trapping us in a painful agony of sadness, loss of interest, and fear.
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally more than 300 million people suffer from depression. However, less than half of these affected seek and get help. In addition to stigma surrounding depression, one of the biggest barriers why people are unable to seek and get help is the lack of government spending worldwide for mental health services. “According to WHO’s “Mental Health Atlas 2014” survey, governments spend on average 3% of their health budgets on mental health, ranging from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income countries.”
Mental health needs to be at the forefront of the humanitarian and development agenda, in order to achieve the set Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governments around the world must scale up their investment in mental health services, as the current commitments are inadequate. The study published by “The Lancet Psychiatry” calls for greater investment in mental health services. “We know that treatment of depression and anxiety makes good sense for health and wellbeing; this new study confirms that it makes sound economic sense too,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “We must now find ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live.”
Mental health has a crucial role in the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence. However, to date most research and practice has focused on the role of mental health post-violence, and intimate partner violence (IPV) prevention is relying on public health models that do not explicitly include mental health. Yet, key concepts, processes, and competencies in the mental health field appear essential to successful IPV primary prevention.
Erwadi is known for its 550-year-old Badusha Nayagam Dargah—“Erwadi Dargah,” one of the biggest shrines in India. Every day, numerous devotees of different faiths visit the shrine from surrounding villages, states, and countries. Among these visitors is a large number of people who suffer from mental illness and have come to pray for a cure. Some of them see the Dargah as their first and only hope—guided by the magico-religious belief that illness is caused by the possession of evil spirits or the performance of wicked magic—while others have turned to the shrine as a last resort after receiving ineffective treatment.
When I visited Erwadi Dargah in 2013 and met with a team working on a local program called District Mental Health Project (DMHP), an important partner of the World Bank-supported Tamil Nadu Mental Health Project, they expressed an urgent need to help the devotees affected by mental illness. Their subsequent discussions with representatives of the shrine revealed a lack of information on potential treatment options and strong resistance to medical interventions among the devotees. At that time, the team knew of a similar circumstance in another part of India—the state of Gujarat—so they invited the representatives of Erwadi’s religious community to learn from peers in Gujarat about complementing religious rituals with medical treatment.
And thus started a unique experiment called “Dawa-Dua,” or prayer-treatment.
Armed conflict and violence disrupt social support structures and exposes civilian populations to high levels of stress. The 2015 Global Burden of Disease study found a positive association between conflict and depression and anxiety disorders. While most of those exposed to emergencies suffer some form of psychological distress, accumulated evidence shows that 15-20% of crisis-affected populations develop mild-to moderate mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). And, 3-4% develop severe mental disorders, such as psychosis or debilitating depression and anxiety, which affect their ability to function and survive. If not effectively addressed, the long-term mental health and psychosocial well-being of the exposed population may be affected.
Do you have friends or people you follow on social media who always have a drink in their hand? Does that seem normal to you? Did you ever wonder if they might have a problem?
Meet Louise Delage. She’s beautiful, trendy, and seems to lead a very glamorous life. The only problem is she’s always drinking… and no one notices. In the span of a few months, she was able to cultivate over 16,000 followers and 50,000 likes, few of whom noticed she is a functional alcoholic. The overwhelming majority of her followers just saw a pretty woman having fun, failing to notice her alcohol problem.
This is all part of a social campaign from Paris agency BETC called "Like My Addiction" rolled out for Addict Aide, which sought to raise awareness of alcoholism among young people. According to the organization, one out of every five deaths of young people each year is from addiction. The World Health Organization also warns of the hazards of alcohol, declaring that harmful alcohol consumption has now become "one of the most important risks to health: it is the leading risk factor in developing countries with low mortality rates and ranks third in developed countries, according to the World Health Report 2002." Alcohol use contributes to a wide range of diseases, health conditions and high-risk behaviours, from mental disorders and road traffic injuries, to liver diseases and unsafe sexual behaviour.
The truth about Louise was revealed in a video published on Instagram and YouTube:
The plight of forcibly displaced people, who are fleeing conflict and violence, is best summed up by the lyrics of the plaintive 1970 classic by Argentine troubadour Facundo Cabral: "No soy de aquí ni soy de allá"("I'm not from here nor there").
Those lyrics convey both the sense of uprootedness felt by those displaced from their native lands and habitual routines, and the feeling of “otherness,” emotional detachment, and powerlessness when relocated to foreign surroundings and societies, which in some cases, are unwelcoming to outsiders.
The southern state of Tamil Nadu, for instance, has one million people living mental disorders—about 3-5 cases per village. Meanwhile, the country faces a severe shortage of psychiatrists and psychiatrist nurses, and clinical care is scarce in rural India. Due to deep social stigma related to mental illness, such serious issues are largely invisible at the community level.
That’s why, in 2012, we launched a comprehensive social and clinical care program with the government of Tamil Nadu to inform and educate local communities on mental health issues, as well as to encourage families and people affected by mental illness to seek treatment. Working with leading local health practitioners, we based the campaign on a core message that was simple, powerful, and resonated with the community:
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
The Syrian Civil War is entering its sixth year with no resolution in sight: Even February’s truce may be collapsing as the battle for Aleppo intensifies. There will be more refugees and casualties as civilians flee the violence. With its aerial bombings, car bombs, chemical warfare, the unparalleled brutality of Islamic State, and unrelenting trauma of urban warfare, Syria’s war has seen half a million deaths, over 4 million refugees, and some 7 million internally displaced peoples (IDPs).