Growing prevalence of depression highlights need for education
Yesterday marked the 20th Annual World Mental Health Day, established to address the unmet need for awareness and understanding of common mental health conditions, such as depression, within our community. This year, under the theme of "The Great Push: Investing in Mental Health", World Mental Health Day aimed to encourage communities to elevate understanding of the impact of mental health disorders, in order to help support prevention, eradicate stigma, and ensure the proper management and protection of patients worldwide.
Depression is a common mental health disorder, affecting around 121 million people worldwide, and has become a major health concern in the region. In 2001, the World Health Organization identified depression as the fourth leading cause of disability and premature death in the world. It is projected that depression will become the leading cause of burden of disease by 2030.
As an example demonstrating the regional burden of depression, a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry highlighted a large gap in the Middle East region between the number of people needing and actually receiving treatment for depression. Furthermore, the World Health Organization notes more than 75% of people with depression in developing countries are inadequately treated, with mental health one of the most neglected, yet essential, development issues in achieving the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.
Dr. Yousef Abu Al Laban, Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director of the American Center for Neurology and Psychiatry in Abu Dhabi said: “Investing in mental health is critical. Lack of overall disease awareness and stigma associated with depression are major barriers preventing patients from receiving proper diagnosis and treatment – which often mean those suffering from depression do so in silence. Furthermore, patients receiving treatment also may not be taking their medicine according to physician instructions – or at all – making compliance an issue as well.”
According to Dr. Abu Al Laban, the impact of major depressive disorders on individuals and their families is substantial. A major U.S. study noted that more than 50% of individuals suffering from depression tested had disease symptoms categorized as “severe” or “very severe” and were associated with substantial impairment.
Considering guidelines, along with tracking treatment maintenance and quality of life while on treatment, will help patients and doctors work together to ensure patients can live life to the fullest on treatment.
“World Mental Health Day provides us with an opportunity to open up dialogue with patients, physicians and the community to help support the environment in which patients reach recovery. This dialogue helps to improve the way that patients are treated, both pharmacologically and psychologically,” said Dr. Abu Laban, “As doctors, we need to build the use of guidelines into our daily practices and increase a more common understanding of disorders amongst psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals in the UAE – particularly in this case, Major Depressive Disorder – to ensure optimal treatment outcomes for patients in need. As members of the community, we need to understand the high prevalence of these disorders, and support patients around us on their way to recovery.”
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