Tell me if this sounds familiar. You are speaking to someone, who says “this is just the way it is”, or “I didn’t have a choice”, or perhaps “I know it’s not right, but this is our fate”. Or perhaps you have read similar accounts. More often than not, these or similar words are spoken by women – and they are spoken around the world. Have you noticed the inflections in their voices, or the expressions on their faces? Have you wondered about these women and what their lives are truly like? Are these just statements of fact, or do they conceal a much bigger issue?
At the World Bank Group (WBG)-International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings earlier this month in Bali, Indonesia, WBG President Dr. Jim Kim posed a critical question: “What will it take to promote economic growth and help lift people out of poverty everywhere in the world…How will they reach their ambitions in an increasingly complex world?”
Fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) have become some of the most pressing threats to economic development. Over 2 billion people live in FCV countries, and it is expected that by 2030 nearly 50 to 60 percent of the world’s poorest people will live in areas affected by conflict. This can pose major socioeconomic challenges, including a reduction of gross domestic product growth by 2 percentage points per year and driving youth to join rebellions due to conflict-driven unemployment.
Many of us have vivid memories of the joy and excitement of young adulthood, but this can also be a time of stress, apprehension and fear of the unknown. For many young people, this unease can lead to acute anxiety, severe depression or substance use disorders, if not recognized and managed.
Young people living in environments where they face death and suffering daily, such as in West Africa during the Ebola epidemic of 2014-2015, in post-tsunami or earthquake-affected areas, or in countries experiencing extended conflict and violence, are particularly vulnerable to mental distress and illness.
This year’s World Mental Health Day, on Oct. 10, recognizes this critical time in life with the theme “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.” Many changes occur during adolescence and the early years of adulthood, but they are not always acknowledged or treated.
I was deeply touched by statements and testimonies from people from all walks of life, but what impressed me the most was the discussion about the “veil of oblivion” surrounding the dire conditions of mentally ill people in jails and prisons.
Accumulated scientific evidence shows that proper nutrition and stimulation in utero and during early childhood benefit physical and mental well-being later in life and contribute to the development of children’s cognitive and socioemotional skills. Yet, a critical but often overlooked fact in policy design and program development across the world is the association between maternal depression and childhood stunting -- the impaired growth and development measured by low height-for-age.
The launching of the iPhones 8 and X and the advent of genomic-based precision medicine for disease treatment and prevention, are new reminders that technological innovation is fueling momentous change in our daily lives. Indeed, as Professor Klaus Schwab, the chairman of the World Economic Forum describes, the physical, digital and biological trends underpinning what he calls 'the fourth industrial revolution', are unleashing changes “unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) crisis ended more than a year ago in Liberia. It resulted in over 10,000 cases and 5,000 deaths. For many children, the crisis continues through intrusive memories of illness, isolation, and death. These memories are particularly acute for the children directly affected by Ebola; those that were quarantined, separated from family during treatment, or orphaned. The Liberia Ministry of Health (MOH) identified 3,091 such children, and a World Bank working paper calculated that approximately 4,200 Liberian children lost one or both parents to Ebola.
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.
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.