Depression a growing threat to development

NAIROBI, Kenya, 7 April 2017 – Depression is now the leading cause of disability worldwide accounting 10 % and a major contributor to the overall Global burden of disease at 4.3%.

Latest estimates from World Health Organization, also shows that more than 300 million people globally are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015.

The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Dr. Cleopa Mailu made the revelations on Thursday during the celebrations to mark the World Health Day.

“to mitigate the effects of Depression and other mental health conditions the Ministry of Health is  implementing the Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-2030 that contains strategies and priority actions focused on community approaches aimed at preventing depression.The interventions will focus on several actions surrounding the strengthening of protective factors and the reduction of risk factors across the lifespan, “ said Dr. Mailu in a speech read by the Head of Quality and Standards, Dr. Pacific Onyancha.

The CS revealed that key interventions will involve collaboration with relevant stakeholders in the strengthening of protective factors including school-based programs targeting cognitive, problem-solving and social skills of children and adolescents.  The implementation will also prioritize actions targeting interventions for maternal mental health, older persons, persons emerging from conflicts and traumatic life situations at all levels of healthcare.

At its worst, depression can lead to suicide, which is now the second leading cause of death in young people, between ages 15-29. Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year.

Dr. Mailu cited lack of resources, lack of trained health-care providers, and social stigma associated with mental disorders as key barriers to effective care .

The theme for this year’s World Health Day is Depression, Let’s Talk. The purpose is to make the public aware of depression and treatment options. Depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.

The illness can happen to anybody. It causes mental anguish and impacts on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends and the ability to earn a living.

It’s also associated with high morbidity of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and communicable diseases. Conversely, people living with chronic physical health conditions experience depression twice the rate of the general population.

Co-existing mental and physical conditions can diminish quality of life and lead to longer illness duration and worse health outcomes. This situation generates increased economic costs to society due to lost work productivity and increased health service use.

Depression also has significant social and economic consequences. The disease is associated with increased use of health resources, including increased primary and specialty care hospital utilization hospital.

Individuals with depression lose 5.6 hours of productive time at work per week compared to 1.6 hours in non-depressed workers, which results in millions of lost workdays per year associated with depression.

“I call upon all stakeholders to partner with us in the implementation of Kenya Mental health policy for the attainment of highest standard of mental health. These strategic actions and investments will go a long way in achieving the targets of Vision 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals,” he noted.

Despite the presence of evidence based and effective psychosocial and pharmacological interventions for depression many individuals with the condition never receive treatment consequently exacerbating an already serious situation.

“As individuals, community, and national level, it is time to educate ourselves about depression and support those who are suffering from this mental disorder. It is time for Kenyans to talk about depression,” he argued.